READ: 1 Samuel 22-24, Psalm 88, John 20, Philippians 3
IN DEFENSE OF AUTHORITY
The best way to respond to unjust attacks against you by authority figures is to defend others. God will take care of your defense (1 Sam. 24:12). David is moving from forest to desert (running for his life from Saul) and spending his time defending Saul’s people from Saul’s enemies. David never takes Saul on as an enemy; rather, he fights his leader’s battles, even when his leader is trying to kill him. The Christ-like way to respond to the insecurity of a leader is to continue to do that leader’s work, even while that leader is trying to remove you. Care for those under your leader – not as David’s son Absalom, in order to take your leader’s place – but as David who served the people because it was the right thing to do.
Gene Edwards in his book The Tale of Three Kings points out the correct response to ungodly or insecure leadership as he contrasts the reactions of Saul, David, and Absalom. Jonathan, too, must be considered for there is an auxiliary role to be played when authority is being misused. Jonathan – rightful heir to Saul’s throne – recognizes that God has chosen someone other than himself for leadership. The most secure in leadership are able to abdicate the place they have been groomed for to the one God has prepared. God is not bound by our mechanisms of selection, and the secure leader gladly bows to God’s wisdom. Not only did Jonathan accept God’s choice (and his own demotion), he genuinely advocated for David to Saul.
David teaches us to submit. He considered Saul his master and the anointed of God even when Saul wanted to kill him (1 Sam. 24:6). By his negative response Saul teaches us not to be insecure and to groom young leaders to replace us. Absalom is the anti-David and shows us the danger of ambition. Jonathan teaches us the surrender of title and the defense of others.
There comes a time in any leadership team where other potential leaders are discussed. Inevitably there will be concerns or doubt about the suitability of an emerging leader. Someone in the inner circle needs to speak up for the one in question. A Jonathan on the leadership team (potentially the one with the most to lose) must defend the young leader being doubted. How incredibly pleasing it is to the Lord when we cede our place to someone else, someone we recognize God has chosen. It takes a special security to recognize that God has chosen someone else to take your place and to rejoice in it. Jonathan is a biblical hero for he did (and rejoiced in) what very few in his day (or ours) are willing to do. Jonathan displayed his incredible spiritual security (and authority) by defending others – at cost to himself. David also defended himself by risking himself for others. When we are questioned or doubted by authority, let us respond in the spirit of Jonathan and David – linked spirits because they understood authority so magnificently.