So who would win in a fight, Goliath or Bathsheba? Actually a better question might be, which of them would pose the greatest threat to a king? King David would think the question is a no-brainer. He would say, “A giant on a battlefield is far less dangerous than a bathing woman on a rooftop—because kings weren’t made for rooftops in times of war.”
Countless preachers have unpacked the sordid details of David’s affair with Bathsheba, inevitably highlighting the fact that David never should have encountered her in the first place. The poignant tone of 2 Samuel 11:1 instantly warns us that something is not right when it says, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men…but David remained in Jerusalem.”
In addition to its moral lesson, this story contains two leadership principles that are essential for our long-term success as pastors and ministry leaders. First, kings need to do what kings are supposed to do—when it’s time to besiege Rabbah they need to be besieging Rabbah, and not lingering in Jerusalem. And second, fighting the wrong fight can be deadly. There is grace to win the battles that we are supposed to fight; however, ill-advised contests can destroy us. Just ask King Josiah, who was quite possibly the godliest king in Israel’s history, and yet died while engaging in a battle that God never told him to fight.
Our giants can fall because giants are supposed to fall, but Bathsheba should never be encountered at all—she is supposed to be a non-issue because we’re too busy doing what kings are supposed to do: fighting and winning the right battles.
What are the right battles for you? What are the key ministry areas that God has specifically fashioned and equipped you for? What parts of your job description must be handled exclusively by you? If you’ve identified these priorities how well are you living in them?
Evaluating these questions can be one of the wisest, most proactive things we can do to ensure our long-term ministry health and success. David wasn’t the first (or, unfortunately, the last) leader to learn the hard way that kings need to do what kings are supposed to do.
So what should we be doing?
Recognizing that our individual priorities vary based on our assigned positions let’s remember Jethro’s concluding advice to Moses after he observed him courting burnout in the early days of his ministry. Jethro’s counsel was simple. After affirming Moses and rejoicing with him in all of the awesome things God was doing in and with the nation, he appealed to Moses to limit himself to just four ministry priorities:
- Intercession. Moses was to be the people’s advocate before the Lord.
- Teaching. He was to teach the statutes, the laws, the way, and the work. In other words, he was to teach the ways of God, the standards for godly conduct, principles for successful living, and he was to cast a compelling vision of the work that God had called them to do.
- Leadership development. Since the crushing weight of a million people could never be carried by one person (church experts today tell us that one person really can’t effectively pastor more than one hundred people on their own) Moses was to identify and place leaders over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. After installing these leadership teams, Moses was to relate generously with them, helping them process the weightier matters of the nation.
- Training the generations. Reaching out to Joshua, the next generation’s emerging, young leader also topped Moses’ priority list.
Jethro’s summary statement was pretty incredible. He said, “If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” (Exodus 18:23) Isn’t that our goal? In a profession where people finish poorly more often than any other field, isn’t it our dream to thrive amid the “strain” and have the people that God has entrusted to us “go home satisfied.”
Let’s do it—let’s fight Goliath, live in our priorities, and leave Bathsheba for someone else to deal with.