The idea of the social contract is one of the most influential ideas in the history of government. From the beginning of time, societies have formal or informal agreements between leaders and followers. Socrates and Plato said that we have a moral obligation to obey the laws of our land as long as we choose to remain in the land. Epicurus argued that justice is essentially the mutual agreement not to hurt each other.
However, the social contract theory took giant steps forward among philosophers of the 17th century. Hugo Grotius suggested that individuals have certain natural rights which enable us to live together. Then, Thomas Hobbes argued that we choose to surrender some rights to a king or to a government to protect us from the loss of all rights in anarchy. Next, John Locke took this theory a step further, saying that government only holds its power through the “consent of the governed.” In other words, we all agree to keep our governments in power because that is essentially in our best interests. Locke’s most radical stance was the right to reform the government to make it more effective in serving those governed.
This “consent of the governed” is a really important concept still today. There are two types of consent - overt and tacit. Overt consent is when the people choose their leader and submit to his or her leadership. Tacit consent is when there is neither a formal choice nor a formal rejection of the leader. Therefore, the people under the leader tacitly (or passively) accept the leader’s authority over them.
Now, hold all of this social contract theory in mind as we turn to our text. What we will see today is a form of overt consent to leadership. The people of Israel unite in their commitment to make David their king. They form a covenant with David, which is a formal social contract.
Read 2 Samuel 5:1-12.
1 Then all the tribes of Israel went to David at Hebron and told him, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the Lord told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader.’”
3 So there at Hebron, King David made a covenant before the Lord with all the elders of Israel. And they anointed him king of Israel.
4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in all. 5 He had reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months, and from Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.
6 David then led his men to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land who were living there. The Jebusites taunted David, saying, “You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!” For the Jebusites thought they were safe. 7 But David captured the fortress of Zion, which is now called the City of David.
8 On the day of the attack, David said to his troops, “I hate those ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ Jebusites. Whoever attacks them should strike by going into the city through the water tunnel.” That is the origin of the saying, “The blind and the lame may not enter the house.”
9 So David made the fortress his home, and he called it the City of David. He extended the city, starting at the supporting terraces and working inward. 10 And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies was with him.
11 Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. 12 And David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.
Unfortunately, we don’t have many details here. After Saul died, there was a civil war, with most of the tribes in the north choosing Saul’s son as king, and with the tribe of Judah in the south claiming David as king. In our passage the two sides finally come together and choose David. Then, David chooses the neutral city of Jerusalem for his new capital - strategically located between the conflicted northern and southern areas. But we don’t know what was in this new covenant. What did David promise to Israel? What did the leaders of Israel promise to David? The text doesn’t say exactly, but it does give us some strong hints.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about how this idea of covenant works today. In the church, we sometimes use the word covenant as a sign that we are making a binding agreement with people and with God. Covenant is somehow deeper than a contract. It is spiritual and moral and holistic.
However, we forget that we have all kinds of leadership covenants. Sometimes we choose our leaders and go through formal covenant ceremonies - like when a president is elected and takes the oath of office, or when a church votes to call a pastor to be their spiritual shepherd.
On the other hand, remember what Paul said in our epistle lesson from Romans 13: “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. ... The authorities are God’s servant’s sent for your good.”
One message of the Bible is that we have a social-spiritual covenant in every leader-follower relationship. This covenant cuts both ways. Both leaders and followers have commitments. Among parents and children, slaves and masters, bosses and employees, pastors and church people, teachers and students, governors and citizens, husbands and wives, older students and younger students - everyone concerned has the obligation to treat others with respect and fairness, remembering that Christ is over all of us as the ultimate authority. (See for example Ephesians 5:21 - 6:9.)
In all our relationships with leaders or followers, we have either an overt or a tacit social-spiritual covenant. Whoever has authority has it because God has given that person authority for the good of the people. If you are married, your spouse has a measure of God-given authority over you. You are not your own; you belong to your spouse. If you are a child, your parents have a God-given authority over you. If you are an employee, your boss has a measure of God-given authority over you.
Now, you might say, I didn’t choose my boss - much less my boss’s boss, and I certainly didn’t choose my parents. I didn’t vote for this president or this policeman. I don’t see why they should have any authority over me. Well, according to the social contract theory, you accept their authority by remaining in the relationship. If you don’t like their authority, you have three choices:
- Move out. (Immigrate to another nation, get a new job, or get your own apartment.)
- Reform the leadership. (Help the leaders become more effective and more faithful.)
- Make the best of it. (Submit to their authority - even if it’s bad - simply because it’s better than the alternative anarchy.)
But no matter what choice you make with a particular , remember that you are - in fact - living with a wide variety of overlapping leadership covenants. People are in leadership over you, and you are in leadership over others. And you are all bound together by a host of written and unwritten obligations.
OK, now let’s get back to our story about David, and we’ll see some of the building blocks for a healthy leader-follower relationship. Think about it. We have this God-ordained covenant in all our leader-follower relationships. There is a deep spiritual bond between us - whether we make it clear or whether it just exists under the surface. Well, how do we do this covenant well? How do we engage in the relationships of leadership in healthy ways? 2 Samuel 5 hints at some of the basic building blocks of a healthy leadership relationship.
First, the foundation of any leader-follower relationship is PURPOSE. Remember the purpose. The last verse of our passage gives us the purpose of leadership: “And David realized that the Lord ... had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.” The purpose of leadership is the good of the people. God blesses leaders to help people.
One temptation here is to think that the purpose of leadership is the good of our people - just the people in our church or our school or our company or our nation. But that is not Biblical. We have to go back to the beginning of blessing and leadership, when God called Abraham: “I will bless you ... and you will be a blessing to others. ... All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). The purpose of leadership is always for the good of all people everywhere. Naturally, our first charge is to develop and to grow our people here, but we must never forget the goal of joining in God’s mission to bless the world.
As leaders and as followers, remember the foundation of our relationship. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43). Serving others is our purpose. That is the foundation for the whole relationship.
Next, we have the walls or the pillars of the relationship.
The first pillar is SOLIDARITY. The leaders of Israel said, “We are your own flesh and blood” (2 Samuel 5:1). Whenever there is conflict, the first and most natural response is to magnify our differences. But a basic pillar of the leader-follower relationship is remembering that we are in this together.
Sure, leaders make mistakes. They’re human. And, since followers are human as well, they have their own share of mistakes, failures, and weaknesses. If we’re going to work together well, we’re going to do it on a basis of gracious solidarity. Listen to Paul’s gentle warning in Romans 12: “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:3-4).
The Israelites said, “We are one flesh and blood.” Christians say, “We are all parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Whatever happens, remember that we are in this life together. This is solidarity.
The next pillar is COMPROMISE. David’s first official act as king of the unified Israel was to choose a compromise city as the capital. He left his old capital of Hebron in the south because the northerners would always think he was being unfair. He didn’t choose a new capital in the north because the southerners would think he was selling out and abandoning them. Instead, he chose middle ground.
Interestingly, in order to find a place of compromise, David had to conquer new territory with new methods. Israel had tried to conquer Jerusalem several times, but they always failed. David had to get creative. The city was in a fortress on a hill, and they had a water pipe down to the spring so that they could always have fresh water even when surrounded by enemies. David sent his men crawling up a tiny water pipe for a surprise attack.
This gives us some insight about leadership and compromise. If we’re going to find a workable solution between two extremes, we’re going to have to get creative. If there is a history of conflict, the solution probably won’t be north or south, conservative or liberal, rich or poor, contemporary or traditional. To find a workable compromise, you’ll probably have to conquer new ground. You’re probably going to have to come up with a third solution that works on a different level.
Also, when there is a history of failure or stuck-ness, you’re probably going to have to try something new. Generation after generation, Israel just couldn’t beat the Jebusites. They drove out lots of other tribes, but they just couldn’t get up that hill to defeat the walls of Jerusalem. When you find yourself stuck after you’ve really tried, then it’s time to try something new. And when your leader wants to try something new - something crazy like sending an army up a water pipe - consider the possibility that breaking out of a fixed history may require something creative and new. Creativity is often the key to compromise.
The next pillar of the leader-follower relationship is COMPETENCE. A certain measure of ability is required. The Israelites recognized that David had what it takes to be a leader: “In the past, when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel.” David proved his competence immediately with a quick win in Jerusalem.
Then, verse 10 says David “became more and more powerful” or literally “went and went and became great.” David kept growing. He didn’t stop with becoming king. He continued to grow and develop.
This is critical for both leaders and followers. In a healthy relationship, we keep growing. We let God continue to refine our character and our skills. We keep giving each other feedback and encouragement. We keep working on our relationships, improving not only what we do but also how we do it and how we do it together. Inside a strong leader-follower relationship is a commitment to ongoing growth.
In the church, in the family, in the workplace - healthy leaders and followers are constantly talking about how we can be better and do what we do better. This is strengthening the core pillar of competence.
Last, over this foundation and these pillars, there is a roof of BLESSING. Israel recognized that God had blessed David: “The Lord told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader.’” And they anointed him as a sign of God’s Spirit being poured over him for a special task. David was only able to succeed “because the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies was with him.” Finally, when the King of Tyre sent David the supplies for a palace, “David realized that the Lord had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.”
One simple truth of Scripture and history is that God blesses leaders. God raises up leaders with special skills and abilities, a special anointing of God’s Spirit to lead God’s people to become who we are supposed to be. This is absolutely true. And every time, we get ready to criticize or to complain about our leaders (whether they are our politicians, our bosses, or our parents), we would be wise to remember that God has blessed that woman or that man with special gifts for the good of God’s people. They aren’t perfect, but they are blessed.
But there is another truth in Scripture that is just as true. God blesses followers. David couldn’t have been king without his people. David couldn’t have conquered Jerusalem without the soldiers to go up the water pipe. It is true that God blesses leaders, but it is also true that God blesses followers. We all have a role to play in this mission of life.
Sometimes, people say things like, “Josh, God has really blessed you. I feel God’s blessing when you preach.” And, that’s great. I’m glad that happens. That’s part of my role here. But sometimes I want to say, “How is God using you to bless others around here? What are you doing to be a blessing to others?”
Paul said: “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other” (1 Corinthians 12:7). What are you doing to help others? Don’t just sit and come and go. Don’t just receive a blessing. If you’re getting blessed here, that’s great. That’s why we do this. Now, give back.
- Hang out with teens in the youth group. Adam and Shannon will be delighted.
- Help SuJin restart a Wednesday night worship service for young adults.
- Sign up with Matt to help as we split our children’s church into kindergarten and elementary classes.
- Talk to Virginia to write articles for the church newsletter.
- Tell TaeRan you want to help with the snacks or with church potlucks.
- Talk to me if you’re interested in leading or hosting a small group.
- Talk with Sarah Bean to help with the worship service or set up on Sunday mornings.
Do something. Get involved. You are blessed with a purpose. This brings this whole discussion full circle. We are all deeply blessed, and we are blessed with a purpose. Remember your blessing, and remember your purpose - to be a blessing to others.
This is the heart of the Gospel. God chose us when we were too weak and too sinful and too selfish to choose God. God poured out his blessing and grace on us until we began to open up more and more to his love. Now God continues to pour his love and grace on us through Jesus Christ. Jesus died and rose again. As we repent of our sin and our selfishness, that clears the way for God to bless us with more and more of Jesus’ life and love. And as God pours out the waters of blessing into our lives, blessing spills and drips out of us wherever we go. We become a blessing in all of our relationships.
Think of how the world would be different if we lived God’s blessing in all our leader-follower relationships. Think about what it would be like if parents thought first about how they could bless and encourage their children. How would our world change if followers tried to encourage their leaders to be the best leaders they could be? How would our world change if all our leaders valued the success of their followers more than their own advancement?
Imagine what people would say if Christians developed this amazing reputation of being the best people to work with and the best people to work for because we are always blessing and helping those around us. Imagine if Christians always lived with leadership covenants built on a common purpose, deep solidarity, creative compromise, growing competence, and blessed blessing! If we could live like that, we could change the world!
Here is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. -- We can! We can live that. We can be that kind of community. We can change our world. This is our calling as the Church. This is our calling as the people of God. This is our calling - and even more - this is our promise.