Connections 07.08.2018: Learning from Experience

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-12

My late mentor, Dr. Howard P. Giddens, was an excellent Bible teacher. So when I became pastor of my first church after seminary, I asked him over the years to come lead several Bible studies. Before he started one night’s session, he talked a little about how important biblical knowledge is. And then he read the following story.

A young seminary graduate was seeking to pastor his first church. One pulpit committee requested an interview. As the student and committee gathered together, the chairman began the questioning. “Young man, do you know your Bible?” The young man replied, “Yes sir. I know the Bible from front to back.” Another asked, “Do you know the stories and parables?” The candidate answered, “Oh yes! I know all the stories and parables.” Another committee member said, “Tell us one of the parables of Jesus—let’s say the parable of the Good Samaritan.”

And so he did. It went like this.

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, who went down to Jericho by night and fell among stony ground. And the thorns rose up and choked him nearly half to death. He said, ‘What shall I do?’ Then he said, ‘I shall arise and go to my father’s house.’ And he arose, and climbed into a sycamore tree. The next day Solomon and his wife Gomorrah came by, and they carried him down to the ark for Moses to take care of him. And as he was going through the eastern gate into the ark, he caught his hair in a limb and he hung there for forty days and forty nights.”

“And afterwards, he hungered and the ravens came and fed him. The next day the three wise men came and carried him down to Nineveh. And when he got down there, he found Delilah sitting on the wall. He cried out, ‘Chunk her down, boys.” And they said, ‘How many times shall we chunk her down, unto seven times?’ And he said, ‘Nay, but unto seventy times seven.’ So they chunked her down 490 times. Then she burst asunder in their midst, and they picked up twelve baskets of her fragments. And they asked him, ‘Lord, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be?’”

The pulpit committee chairman said, “Folks, I think we ought to call him. I know he’s young, but he sure knows his Bible.”

And all the people laughed.

I think Dr. Giddens went on to tell the folks that I was a young preacher right out of seminary too, but that I knew the Bible a little better than that. I probably blushed.

The real humor in the story is found in the fact that the pulpit committee chair didn’t know the Bible either. If the church called the pastor, I don’t expect it went well, given that nobody, pastor or people, seemed to have learned anything along the way.

This week’s lesson focuses on David because the lesson text focuses on him. But we should note that the people of the northern tribes had learned some lessons too. They had learned through trial and error that they would be best off accepting David as their king.

Now, we should not infer from this that people should always accept everything their church or civic leaders do. We should exercise careful discernment in choosing and in following leaders.

But we do need leaders. We need good leaders.

When it comes to leaders, the important thing isn’t how much experience they have, but rather what they’ve learned from their experiences.

When it comes to all of us, the important thing is that we learn well from our experiences too.

Otherwise, how will we know whether or not our leaders have learned what they need to know to be good leaders?

Discussion

1. Do you think the northern tribes wanted David to be their king because it was the Lord’s will, for their own political reasons, or both? Why?
2. What difficulties might David’s having ruled as king of the southern tribes for seven years before becoming king of the northern tribes have caused him?
3. Why might David have established his capital at the newly conquered Jerusalem?
4. What do you think caused David to realize that “the LORD had established him king over Israel” (v. 12a)?
5. David also “perceived … that [the LORD] had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel” (v. 12b). Why should church and civic leaders remember that they do what they do for the sake of the people? What can happen if they don’t remember this?

Reference Shelf

The removal of obstacles on David’s road to the throne of all Israel means, for a good part of the people, that they are now leaderless. With Abner and his puppet king Ishboshet gone and no other pretenders from Saul’s house in sight, the tribes visit David to claim him as their king. First, they claim kinship with their king-to-be, a statement we should take in its broadest sense as pointing out that the people and David belong together. After this claim, they bring to the fore David’s gifts of leadership even when Saul was still king, and cite God’s promises for David’s future as “shepherd” (v. 2). The shepherd metaphor, conventional for that time and place, connotes the particular care a king should exercise over his people in leading, nurturing, guarding, and protecting them. In David’s case, God called him as a shepherd boy to become the shepherd of God’s people. The speech is interesting for its indirectness: “we belong together, you were always a leader even under Saul, and God promised you would be our shepherd/leader, so . . .” (vv. 1-2). Without spelling out their request, the tribal representatives in the next breath come to “the king” in Hebron, where David, now called “King David,” makes a covenant, after which they anoint him as king (v. 3). This noteworthy sequence of events constitutes the only time in the Bible that a king makes a covenant with his people before taking up his official kingship. The text does not provide any detail on the type of covenant David makes; we may assume that it involved a pledge on David’s part to provide continued leadership and on the people’s part not only to acknowledge him as king at this moment but to remain loyal to David and his house. Concluding sentences provide an anticipatory review of the total years that David reigned, headed by the information that David was thirty years old at the time he became king (vv. 4-5)—not a young man for those days, with the largest part of his reign still ahead of him. Names abound in this unit: David, Israel, Judah, Hebron, and Jerusalem, all of which surround the title “king” (eight times). This is the king, these are the people, and these the places of importance. Hebron signals backward, while Jerusalem points forward.

Johanna W. H. van Wijk-Bos, Reading Samuel: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Reading the Old Testament (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2011) 172-73.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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