Wanted: Three Mighty Men and Thirty Men of Valour

Leadership often equals loneliness. To be a leader means setting out a clear and compelling vision of the future and calling others to follow it. It means modelling what you set out to achieve, pointing not only to a future concept, but being prepared to go it alone, living in anticipation of the future that you can see. Much leadership is retrospective: ‘see, that’s how you do it…look at what happens when we take this seriously… we can all do this together…  imagine what we can achieve!’

Towards the end of King David’s life, his biographer (the writer of 2 Samuel) tells us about David’s Mighty Men. Three men who formed David’s inner circle. They were mighty in battle, pulling off extraordinary victories, sometimes single-handedly.

First there was the chief of the three, Josheb-basshebeth (2 Samuel 23:8) who managed to kill 800 enemies with a spear in one single day. Awesome spear work! Then there was Eleazer:

He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. (2 Samuel 23:10)

Eleazer fought so hard that the muscles of his arm seized up and he couldn’t let go of his sword. This is a physiological effect of prolonged muscle use, but it serves as a powerful metaphor – Eleazer couldn’t stop fighting for David and the Kingdom even if he wanted to!

And finally there was Shammah, a man who defended a plot of valuable agricultural land on behalf of David, and struck down many of the Philistine enemies in the process.

The three mighty men were devoted to David and the Kingdom of God. They even risked their own lives to sneak into an enemy stronghold, just to draw water from David’s home-town Bethlehem for their king to drink during his time on the run from the outgoing king Saul. Seeing their bravery and devotion, David was unable to drink the water. Instead he poured it out as an offering to God (2 Samuel 23:13-17).

The best thing about these three devoted servants? We hear nothing about them throughout the story of David’s life until the end. They exist in the background. They serve quietly, with little public acknowledgement or praise. They exist for something other than themselves. Other men are highlighted for their service – the thirty men of valour that are mentioned next in the narrative. Men who also achieved great things in their service for the Kingdom of God. Great acts of leadership, great victories were won by the thirty men of valour. But they couldn’t match the Three for their devotion and courage.

I love the intimacy, the trust and devotion that we see here between David and his Mighty Men. Leadership is often lonely. Oh for three Mighty Men and thirty Men of Valour! What advances for the Kingdom of God could be made! Men who are completely devoted to service of the King (not the pastor!) – the Lord, King Jesus! Oh for men who would fight for each other and for the gospel, who would give their lives to the battle; men who would tackle great giants together, who would win extraordinary victories.

This Bible passage has altered my prayer for our church: ‘Lord, raise up Mighty Men! Send Men of Valour!’

Are you in?