1 Samuel 17:38-39 (NKJV) 38 So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off.
Today I want to look at another figure in this drama. His name is Saul. Saul is the King. His role as king is to lead the people of Israel. It is also to be the protector of the nation. He is where he is supposed to be which is with the army on the battlefield and not home in Jerusalem. However, he is doing the same thing the rest of the army is doing. He is hiding because of the challenge of Goliath. In reality, it is his responsibility to determine how to deal with this threat. If no other solution could be found, Saul should have been the one to go out against Goliath.
Saul is said to be head and shoulders taller than anyone else in Israel. That would mean he stood somewhere in the vicinity of a foot taller than every other soldier. He should have been Israel’s champion. This becomes even more important when we realize that Saul had the same covenant with God that David did. David did not defeat Goliath by his size or his military skill. He did not defeat him because of superior weapons or even better tactics. David defeated the “uncircumcised” Philistine because he had a covenant with God and Goliath did not.
Saul had the same covenant. If he had risen up by faith in that covenant, he would have had the same result David did. It was not about who went out against Goliath, it was about their faith in the covenant and more important in the God of the covenant. The difference between Saul and David was that it was Saul’s responsibility to go. He was the King.
One of the things I believe that leaders must remember is that leadership in the kingdom of God is not about authority. It is about responsibility and accountability.
Hebrews 13:17 (NKJV) 17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
There is a lesson for the follower in this verse but, for me, the lesson to the leader is even more important. It says the leader “must give account.” Account to whom? He or she must give account to God. If I am a leader who understands that God has given me authority only to fulfil my responsibility, I will not have many problems with those following me. When I do, the accountability will fall to them since I have done my part. Too many people want the recognition of leadership but they do not want the accountability.
In today’s scripture we see Saul receiving David into his headquarters. David is a young man, most likely between 17 and 19. He has probably got some growing to do, so he is certainly not as big as Saul. Saul points out the fact that David is a youth and not experienced in war. Yet after David explains that he fought a lion and a bear and defeated them, Saul gives him his armor and lets him go out against the giant.
It might be said that David showed Saul something that convinced him he could to the job. We might conclude that God told Saul to trust in David except that there is no indication of that whatsoever. Even if both things were true, Saul should have at least gone with him. He did not. He just let David go. Why did Saul fail in his responsibility?
I think we can point to a number of things. All of which can affect us as leaders and as Christians. We are all leaders of someone. Even if we have no position, we are fathers and mothers. We are brothers and sisters. Most important, people in our community are watching us. In a sense we are leading them. There are three things that hindered Saul.
Just like everyone else, Saul was afraid of Goliath. Saul had not come up against many people who were physically bigger than he was, but Goliath was as much as three feet taller than Saul. Just like the rest of the army, he was so fixated on Goliath that he could not see beyond him. He was paralyzed by fear. To be afraid is natural, but Saul was not supposed to be fighting in the natural. God can help us with fear if we turn to him.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Second, Saul lacked understanding. In Hosea 4:6, God says that his people are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. When we do not know what God has given us or how to access those things, the devil can deceive us and, if we do not learn, destroy us. One of the most dangerous things for any leader is to become unteachable. We who are leaders can fall into the trap of thinking that if we do not have the answers we will be viewed as weak. No one has all the answers. A true leader is one who knows how to say either, “I don’t know” or “I am wrong.” A true leader will receive instruction when he or she needs it. We must remember that a leader is never destroyed alone. Their lack of knowledge will cause others to be destroyed with them.
Finally, I think Saul tended to be lazy. He did not want the job of King. When Samuel came to anoint him, he was hiding. Once he became king, things changed. Just two chapters before this incident, the prophet Samuel had rebuked Saul because he had only partially obeyed the command of God.
1 Samuel 15:17 (NKJV) 17 So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel?
This certainly applies to our last point as well, but if we were to look into the pattern of Saul’s life, we would see that he tended to take the path of least resistance. He did not do what he should do. To me that speaks of laziness. A lazy leader is a dangerous leader. God often speaks of diligence. In Hebrews 11:6 he tells us that he rewards those who diligently seek him. In Hebrews 4:11 of the New King James Version of the Bible, he tells us to be diligent in order to enter God’s rest. Proverbs is full of warnings about laziness. We do not like to see our own laziness. I know I do not, but if we do not accept God’s correction we will not change.
David was everything Saul was not. He was not afraid. I do not know if he felt any fear at all. I do know that he was not controlled by it. He defeated Goliath by what he knew, not what he could do. He knew the covenant of God. He had walked in its power when he defeated the lion and the bear that attacked his father’s flock. It was his trust in the God of the covenant that defeated the giant.
Finally, David was not lazy. He took care of the flock for which he was given responsibility. He protected them against enemies. He made sure they were taken care of when his father sent him to take food to his brothers. When he was caring for the sheep, he also spent time writing the psalms we so love today. He must have been diligent to develop his relationship with God.
Saul was the King. He had the title. David had been anointed king, but he had no title. However, David was the leader. When the time came, he rose up and took the responsibility, the accountability and the risk. Leadership is not measured by a title. It is measured by character, integrity and faith. Which are you, Saul or David?