After Saul’s death David asks God what to do. His asks for specifics and does exactly as God directs. He is then crowned king, but only of Judah.
Most of the time David was on the run he was in the territory of Judah or helping the people of Judah in one way or another. When he was in Ziklag he was raiding those who would raid Judah. After his conquest of the Amalekites who took his people captive he sent gifts to all the towns that had sheltered him in Judah. It is no wonder the people of Judah want him as their leader.
The last time it is recorded that Saul fought against one of Israel’s enemies in the territory of Judah is when they faced Goliath. David may have led troops in Judah while serving under Saul but Saul only entered Judah, after the battle with Goliath, in search of David.
I’m sure Saul still demanded his tributes from the people of Judah but he didn’t provide the protection for them that was needed; as far as I can tell. David asked for supplies for his people from those he protected. His protection was given first though. The encounter with Nabal of Carmel in particular emphasizes this. He asked for supplies at the end of the sheering season because they had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds and sheep for some time.
I want to back up a moment though and look at the first thing David did. This was of course AFTER he finished his mourning for Saul and Jonathan. Many places in scripture put the standard mourning period at seven days. One example of this is when Jacob’s sons observed this seven day period for their father. For someone who is very important a 40 day mourning period was observed. An example of this is when Israel mourned for Moses. We aren’t told for certain if David observed a mourning period but I would expect that he did. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it lasted the 40 days but then again, David might have acted sooner since Israel was without a leader at the time. Maybe the rest of Israel was also observing this same mourning period.
Anyway, what I wanted to look at was David’s actions that we have recorded. “David inquired of the Lord” (verse 1a). He didn’t inquire once but twice. He wanted a specific answer from God. This was the beginning of a new chapter in his life and he wanted to make sure he got it right.
I just noticed the fact that David originally restricted God’s answer. He specified his request to include only the cities of Judah. I believe this is because he knew this was where his biggest support lay. He was of the tribe of Judah and had spent most of his hiding within their borders. It makes sense that he would assume Judah would be the ones to welcome him back from the land of the Philistines. I wonder what David would have asked if God said ‘No’ to ‘the cities of Judah’ question. Would David have asked to expand the relocation scope or believed God wanted him to remain in Ziklag?
The biggest reason I wanted to focus on David’s action of seeking God BEFORE stepping out is that this wasn’t always his practice. Before David was first called, God told Samuel He was going to call “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). That man would be David. He LOVED God with all his heart but he wasn’t perfect. He neglected to ask God’s direction several times. Two glaring examples are the two times he sought safety in the land of the Philistines. David DID NOT seek God before making these moves. He set out with plans of his own. God protected him while he was there but that doesn’t mean he was acting in God’s perfect will. At this moment in his life though he wanted to know God’s perfect will for him.
And God graciously provided it. God told David exactly where to go. He didn’t tell him what to do when he got there. But David didn’t ask that question either. God let the hearts of the people He had cultivated speak to David for him.
I can hear David’s heart. “Israel has lost its way. My heart aches for them! I would love to gather them together, bandage their wounds, and wipe away their tears. But not all of them would welcome me. So MANY of them believed Saul’s lies about me. I WON’T dishonor his name before them. But the Lord has called me to shepherd them. How can I do this if they resist me? I’m fairly certain my own tribe will welcome me. But is this what the Lord wants from me right now? I NEED His guidance now more than ever before! I will honor Him with my life from this moment on. I will seek and follow wherever He leads; even if He leads me to standing still.”
David was prepared to accept God’s direction. Even if that direction had been ‘be still’. But it wasn’t. David was told exactly where to go and he followed God’s direction. God took it from there.
We are not told how long David was in Hebron before the men of Judah anointed him king. He wasn’t provided with a palatial palace or heaps of goods as their king. What he received instead was their loyalty and willingness to follow wherever he led. The same thing those who followed him had already given.
David’s first act as king was to thank the people of Jabesh-gilead for their treatment of Saul’s body. In David’s lament for Saul he called for Saul’s death to NOT be sung about in the streets of Gath or proclaimed by the Philistine people. But the treatment of Saul and Jonathan’s bodies were doing exactly that. The people of Jabesh-gilead put a stop to it. For this they earned eternal favor with David.
In his address to Jabesh-gilead David told them of his position. He did NOT demand they follow him. He offered them his leadership in the absence of their king. He left the ‘ball in their court’ as to where to put their loyalty. That wouldn’t remain the standard for all of Israel though. God had already decreed His intentions. God would work His will with David and Israel.
Father God, thank You for providing answers to prayer. Sometimes I don’t like the answers but that doesn’t mean that You failed to answer me. And because I asked I am obligated to take the answer You give me. Maybe that was why David ‘forgot’ to ask sometimes. He didn’t want to hear You say ‘No’ to his plans. Maybe that’s why I don’t always ask first. Forgive me Father for those times.
I like how David waited on the people to make the next move. This was probably ‘after Your own heart’ too. You don’t force people to accept the gifts You give. You hold them out to me and wait until I pick them up. Sometimes You ‘encourage me’ to hurry up and make a decision by using the circumstances around me but You always leave the choice up to me. Once I have accepted the gift though, then You direct my ways with it. And Your direction is ALWAYS best for me. Help me remember that when I walk through tough times.
Right now my country is in tough times. Have YOUR will in my nation. Turn the hearts of the leaders to the people. Bring healing between the different factions. These are MY will but if it isn’t YOURS, guard my family please in Your process. I TRUST YOU in ALL THINGS.