2 Samuel 23:8-39 (Part 1) – Inspired to Greatness – From David, to Jesus, to… Coach Middleton

Posted: September 3, 2018 in 10-2 Samuel
Tags: , , ,

2 Samuel 23:8-39 (Part 1 of 2)
David’s Elite Warriors

Have you ever been part of a championship team in your life? One of the greatest teams that I was ever a part of was when I was only 12 years old. I was living in Anderson, SC at the time as my dad served as associate pastor at a large church in that city, Trinity United Methodist Church. It was there that I found my championship team. Even though it is now 44 years later, I still remember those days of our 12 & Under church league basketball team. We were a team that started slowly because many of us had never played together before. My friend Eddie Younts and I were the most skilled players of the team but the rest of the team was pretty good but none of them were the go-to guys when we needed a basket. Each player had his role and each accepted that. But those first two games of the year we got skunked pretty badly in both because we all didn’t play as a team but by that third game we started to get and we only lost one more game during the regular season and we ended up being the second seed in the season ending tournament. We blistered our first two opponents pretty badly in the tournament and then came the team we had lost twice to during the regular season, Boulevard Baptist Church. We were by far the best teams in our league and that championship game was one to remember for us as 11 and 12 year olds.

We played so well in that championship game as a team. Even our center who was just a gangly tall kid became a force on the inside with rebounds. Eddie and I played our best games each. No look passes to each other, communicating with our eyes on offense and defense. It was our finest moment as a team in the biggest game. We won that game by 5 and we celebrated as if we had won the national championship in college basketball. It was an awesome highlight moment. Those moments where you just truly connect with the people you have been through the battles with. There’s that soul connection when you are a team that just gets each other. You love them. You would take a bullet for them. And now that I think back on it, the one thing that distinguished us was our coach, Coach Middleton. He was a mild-mannered church member but he ended up molding us into a team that together was far beyond what we were individually.

He was tough on us from the beginning. He worked us to death on ball skills and defense when we would rather be running and shooting. He would run us to death at some point during practice with suicide drills (for the uninformed, suicide drills are where you run from one end of the court to the other, touch the end line with your hand and run back to the other end of the court and touch the other end line with your hand – repeatedly). If one of us would not follow directions, the whole team would do suicide drills. He expected a lot of these rag tag bunch of 11 and 12 year olds. He actually taught plays for us to run on offense and defensive sets to be in on that side of the court. He treated us like we were adults and expected us to pick up all the details. His practices were some of the toughest things I have ever been through (including high school football practices). But though he was tough on us, he praised us when we did things right and began to work as a team. As the season progressed, we fell in line behind his leadership. We loved that man. We would have took a bullet for him. I have never seen a grown man tear up as much as he did when the final seconds of that championship game ticked off. He was a proud father figure to a bunch of kids that were highly individual when we met him in those first December practices, but who he molded into a band of brothers by that early March championship game. Even all these years later, I still remember the toughness he instilled in us. I still remember that “band of brothers” feeling he produced in us. It still is a fond memory of a time in my life that I occasionally revisit with vivid memory when the thought crosses my mind.

That was the thought that came to mind when I read about David’s mighty warriors this morning in 2 Samuel 23:8-39. That thought being about how great leadership takes individuals and makes them into a great team together:

8 These are the names of David’s mightiest warriors. The first was Jashobeam the Hacmonite,[a] who was leader of the Three[b]—the three mightiest warriors among David’s men. He once used his spear to kill 800 enemy warriors in a single battle.[c]

9 Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. Once Eleazar and David stood together against the Philistines when the entire Israelite army had fled. 10 He killed Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword, and the Lord gave him a great victory that day. The rest of the army did not return until it was time to collect the plunder!

11 Next in rank was Shammah son of Agee from Harar. One time the Philistines gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field full of lentils. The Israelite army fled, 12 but Shammah[d] held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory.

13 Once during the harvest, when David was at the cave of Adullam, the Philistine army was camped in the valley of Rephaim. The Three (who were among the Thirty—an elite group among David’s fighting men) went down to meet him there. 14 David was staying in the stronghold at the time, and a Philistine detachment had occupied the town of Bethlehem.

15 David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 16 So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. 17 “The Lord forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men[e] who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it. These are examples of the exploits of the Three.

18 Abishai son of Zeruiah, the brother of Joab, was the leader of the Thirty.[f] He once used his spear to kill 300 enemy warriors in a single battle. It was by such feats that he became as famous as the Three. 19 Abishai was the most famous of the Thirty[g] and was their commander, though he was not one of the Three.

20 There was also Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior[h] from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two champions[i] of Moab. Another time, on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it. 21 Once, armed only with a club, he killed an imposing Egyptian warrior who was armed with a spear. Benaiah wrenched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with it. 22 Deeds like these made Benaiah as famous as the Three mightiest warriors. 23 He was more honored than the other members of the Thirty, though he was not one of the Three. And David made him captain of his bodyguard.

24 Other members of the Thirty included:

Asahel, Joab’s brother;
Elhanan son of Dodo from Bethlehem;
25
Shammah from Harod;
Elika from Harod;
26
Helez from Pelon[j];
Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa;
27
Abiezer from Anathoth;
Sibbecai[k] from Hushah;
28
Zalmon from Ahoah;
Maharai from Netophah;
29
Heled[l] son of Baanah from Netophah;
Ithai[m] son of Ribai from Gibeah (in the land of Benjamin);
30
Benaiah from Pirathon;
Hurai[n] from Nahale-gaash[o];
31
Abi-albon from Arabah;
Azmaveth from Bahurim;
32
Eliahba from Shaalbon;
the sons of Jashen;
Jonathan 33 son of Shagee[p] from Harar;
Ahiam son of Sharar from Harar;
34
Eliphelet son of Ahasbai from Maacah;
Eliam son of Ahithophel from Giloh;
35
Hezro from Carmel;
Paarai from Arba;
36
Igal son of Nathan from Zobah;
Bani from Gad;
37
Zelek from Ammon;
Naharai from Beeroth, the armor bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah;
38
Ira from Jattir;
Gareb from Jattir;
39
Uriah the Hittite.

There were thirty-seven in all.

In this passage, we see how these verses tell of the exploits that the special corps of David’s army carried out (they were the Army Special Forces, the Navy SEALS, the Marines Force Recon, the Air Force Special Ops teams of their day). There were two groups of elite men: The Three and The Thirty. To become a member of such a group, a man had to show unparalleled courage in battle as well as wisdom in leadership. “The Three” was the most elite group. The list of “The Thirty” actually contains 37 names but mentions some warriors known to be dead from our readings of the biblical texts (Uriah is an example – he was one of “The Thirty” who was purposely deserted on the battlefield by order David so that he would be killed in action – the whole Bathsheba incident). Thus, the list contains the original member’s name plus his later replacement.

Although David makes major blunders in leadership during his time as a military leader and then as king, one way to understand his successes is to notice the kind of men who followed him. During the time Saul was hunting him, David gradually built a fighting fore of several hundred men. Some were relatives, others were outcasts from society, many were in trouble with the law, but they all had one trait in common – complete devotion to David. Their achievements made them famous. Scripture gives us the impression that these men were motivated to greatness by the personal qualities of their leader, David. David inspired them to achieve beyond their goals and meet their true potential. Likewise, the leaders we follow and the causes to which we commit ourselves will affect our lives. David’s effectiveness was clearly connected to his awareness of God’s leading. He was a good leader when he followed the leadership of God. When David was in alignment with God, he was able to take a rag-tag bunch of misfits and turn them into an elite fighting force.

In just the same way, Coach Middleton did the same for us. We were a bunch of middle class, bratty 11 and 12 year olds that thought we knew it all and thought we the Julius Ervings of that time period. Jordan had not come along yet so Julius Erving (Dr. J.) was the man in the NBA. We thought too that we were little versions of the great stars of college basketball of the time. He shattered that idea quickly and if we were going to be on his team we were going to play like a team. It was kind of like Remember the Titans where they went to summer camp and the coach built a team in the two a days of a hot August in Virginia. You have break the individual so that you can build a team. Coach Middleton built us into a team because we knew he put us through all that for a reason and eventually we saw the results on the court and we began to be willing to follow him through fire. Great leaders expect excellence and draw it out of you. Great leaders develop a team first attitude and make you believe in one another and seek the best for each other. Lessons learned under Coach Middleton resonate to this day in my life.

In just the same way, Jesus did the same for his elite three (John, James, and Peter) and overall, The Twelve. He takes a rag-tag bunch of guys from all different walks of life and he invests in them. He’s tough on them. But he invests his heart in them. He prepares them for the day when he will no longer be with them. He instills in them the lessons of the kingdom and sends the Holy Spirit upon them and molds them into a force that the world has never seen before or since. These disciples of Jesus Christ literally changed the course of human history. They were so passionate about their leader that they spread Christianity from Jerusalem to the far reaches of India in one direction and to Spain in the other direction and down into North Africa within the first 100 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Talk about your championship teams molded by a great leader!

Jesus can do the same thing for you and me. He can take you and me as maybe a highly self-centered person, maybe a social outcast, maybe a troublemaker, maybe a _______ (fill-in the blank), and make us into a redeemed child of God. Through salvation in Him, we go from someone destined for trouble and to hell into a person made holy, clean, and useful to the kingdom, part of the kingdom team. So, if you think that your past disqualifies you from being useful to the kingdom, just think of the fact that Jesus turned some salty fishermen, a tax collector, and rebel against Roman occupation, and generally just a rag-tag bunch of average guys into world changers. They were not the religious elite of their day. They were just common folk with nasty, dirty lives that would be embarrassing and condemning before God and molded them into the greatest evangelists that the world has ever known. You, too, can become part of Jesus’ championship team just by submitting your life to His leadership and giving Him complete allegiance in every aspect of your life.

Then, you will be part of the greatest team…Jesus’ team. The work is hard. The rewards in this lifetime may be few, but together we are a team of Christ followers who will follow Him through the fires of this life because He inspires us to do great things for the kingdom that we could never do on our own.

Amen and Amen.

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