2 Samuel 10:1-5 – David allows his warriors time to heal.
In recent days I have been reflecting on a few verses in Scriptures. They are found in 2 Samuel 10:1-5. Contained therein is the story of David learning that the king of the Ammonites has died and the son of the king, Hanun, has now taken over as ruler. As David recalls the kindness showed to him by Hanun’s father, he decides to send a group of his “servants” (who are leaders) to Hanun to offer condolences on the loss of his father. However, Hanun’s leaders lead Hanun to believe that David’s servants are really there for another reason, to survey the city in order to overthrow it. Hanun believes his men and as a result decides to take action against David’s servants. Hanun seizes David’s servants and forcibly shaves of half of each man’s beard and then cuts off half their clothes. To forcibly shave a man’s beard and to forcibly cut his clothes was to shame him. A man did not touch his beard except “for the performance of certain religious rituals (cf. Lev 14:9; Num 6:18: Ezek 5:1) or to express profound emotional distress (cf. Ezra 9:3).” When David hears of what had happened to his servants, he sends someone to meet them and they are redirected (at David’s command) to Jericho, a place they are to remain (safely!) until such time as their beards have grown back.
Now there are lots of things that could be discussed about this passage. For example, the entire chapter actually seems to come from a different source and seems out of place in the book of 2 Samuel, but that is not my focus. I have actually been pondering David’s actions as a leader. More specifically his actions towards the shaming of his servants in this story. Now I know that David did not always make the wisest choices, just look at Chapter 11 of this same book and you will see David killing a man so he can have his wife, but I’m not going there in this reflection either. Rather I want to focus on David’s willingness to give his servants (his leaders) time to heal. Why? Because it has taken me many years to heal from my early experiences in ministry. If truth be told, I think I was shipwrecked for many years and needed to find my “Jericho” for a season if you will. (That season has lasted over a decade!)
Let me start by saying that many years ago in my late 20’s and into my early 30’s I was involved in women’s ministry at a church that I loved and attended for many years. Actually, I think it could be rightly said that my introduction to the Christian faith and leadership happened in those years at that church. I was surrounded by many godly, seasoned leaders who loved the local church. I, however, was young. And not only was I young in the faith, I was young in experience. But I had lots of big ideas of how I thought things should go. (I know…some of you are cringing already! But it’s true.) What I didn’t know then was that God was going to allow me those years – years where I made some terrible mistakes as a leader and years where I got so wounded that I actually left all visible serving in the church – because he wanted me to to have a taste of leadership and then he wanted to take me on a journey of healing, shaping and changing.
I’m changed because I recognize that to love God with my heart means to follow him wherever he leads. This year marks the year that I am officially and intentionally stepping back into serving in my local church (a place my family and I love!) to serve with an amazing group of women in women’s ministry. And you need to know that my first go around many years ago left me saying, “I will NEVER do that again!” But God has away of getting a hold of us, of healing us (giving us our Jericho), of transforming us and of bringing us to an awareness that perhaps on the first go around we didn’t fully understand what it meant to walk with him as a leader, to have his vision (and timing!) of how things should unfold, and to love others and serve with them (not be running of solo!). That said. There is also much I have learned about the way God has made me (a journey that I would encourage you go on too!) that enables me to better understand why I do some of the things I do and why some things matter to me more than other things. (But that’s another reflection!)
There are a few people who have been a part of that healing process over the years and modelled well for me servant leadership. I am grateful for each and every one of you, and I want you to know that. More importantly, I think each and everyone of us need to be the kind of leader that recognizes when another gets wounded on the mission field of God and encourage them to stay a little while in Jericho in order to heal. And while not all experiences are good, in fact some are brutally painful, I am convinced that God can use them for his glory and purposes in time.
So if this season marks for you a time of reentering serving in your local church or elsewhere, may you know and experience God’s leadings and his empowerment; if this season marks for you a time of healing and restoration, may you experience the grace, leading and presence of God in ways that speak deep to your soul.