These were the men who came to David at Ziklag, while he was banished from the presence of Saul … warriors who helped him in battle.
1 Chronicles 12:1
Before every historic visitation of the Spirit God has sent forerunners. John the Baptist set the pattern; as a voice crying in the wilderness he prepared the way for the ministry of Christ (Mtt 3:3).
Likewise, John Wycliffe – the `Morningstar of the Reformation’ – blazed the trail for Martin Luther; Frank Bartleman, as a prophetic intercessor, for William Seymour and the 1906 Azuza Street outpouring; and the Latter Rain and Healing Revivals of the late 1940’s prepared the way for the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960’s and 70’s.
And again, there is a prophetic forerunner movement preparing the way for the next move of God for what will be the greatest manifestation of Christ that history will record. It will be the closest approximation of the kingdom of God on earth yet. And will be ushered in by an unprecedented level of the supernatural; in fact, it will far exceed the Book of Acts and revival history—the glory of the latter house will truly be greater than the former (Hag 2:9). God has kept the best wine until last (Jn 2:10) and as the scripture declares, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning” (Eccl 7:8).
But how will this happen? Through the forerunner spirit.
David – a type of the emerging kingdom
David symbolises for us the full manifestation of the emerging kingdom of God. It has been said we relate to Adam racially, to Abraham redemptively, to Moses corporately, but to David regally. He typically represents Christ – the son of David – and his kingdom. So, as we study David’s life and reign we learn how Christ’s kingdom works and increases in the earth (Rom 15:4).
David’s preparation for the throne began in Bethlehem (1 Sam 16). Here his ‘first anointing’, through Samuel the prophet, signalled his regal destiny, thrusting him into the oft-perplexing processes toward its fulfilment. It was an anointing for preparation.
On the heels of this anointing, and subsequent meteoric rise, David was driven into a fugitive existence (1 Sam 19-31). Pursued by Saul’s jealous attacks he fled to the wilderness finding refuge in Adullam’s cave and later in Ziklag (1 Sam 22:1; 27:6; 2 Sam 23:13). Here he was joined by the first intake of warriors who became known as David’s ‘mighty men’ (1 Chr 12). These became the forerunners of his kingdom. It was they who not only prepared the way for David’s second and third anointing, but also ultimately turned the kingdom over to him, establishing his reign over all Israel (1 Chr 11:10). In identifying with David and the prophetic word over his life they blazed the trail for a new order, for the transition from Saul to the “new thing” (Isa 42:9).
But let us understand the full import of their actions. They were aligning themselves with a fugitive outlaw. At a superficial glance David clearly had no future. Saul was secure as King. The monarchy was safe in his hands with no indication of change. At his eventual death numerous family were able to succeed to the throne as the need arose. A dynasty was now in place and David was in the cold.
So, in aligning themselves with David these `mighty men’, the forerunners of the kingdom, had burned their bridges—there was no going back. They had turned there backs on all that the established order promised—security, a future, a reputation and promotion.
We must, therefore, ask what motivated them. Admittedly, with the intrigue of court life and frustrated ambition, some may have defected to David out of less than noble motives. However, the course of David’s life in relation to his ‘mighty men’ suggests otherwise. They remained faithful to David and the kingdom for life. Apart from the betrayal of Absalom (David’s own son) and his co-conspirators there is no record of division or subterfuge among the ‘mighty men’ themselves.
The character of David’s mighty men
So, let us look at the character of these men to discover something of the forerunner spirit.
Their defining attribute, as we turn to scripture, was “bravery”:
Some Gadites defected to David at his stronghold in the desert. They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions…
1 Chronicles 12:8 NIV
As warriors they proved themselves by outstanding acts of bravery in battle: Jashobeam raised his spear against 800 men and killed them in one encounter (2 Sam 23:8; 1 Chr 11:11); Eleazar, as one of the three mighty men, stood his ground against impossible odds even when the rest of Israel retreated, gaining a great victory (2 Sam 23:9,10; 1 Chr 11:12-14); likewise, Shammah, in the face of Israel’s fleeing troops took a stand, again bringing victory (2 Sam 23:11-12). When holed up in Adullam it may have been these three who, as a spontaneous gesture, broke through enemy lines at risk of their lives to bring their commander-in-chief, David, a wished-for drink from the well of Bethlehem (1 Chr 11:15-19). And we dare not forget Benaiah who “performed great exploits” by striking down two of Moab’s best warriors, killing a lion in a pit in the snow, and bringing down a spear-wielding 71/2 feet tall Egyptian with only a club (2 Sam 23:20-23; 1 Chr 11:22-25).
While these men possessed outstanding physical bravery, more importantly, they had already displayed great moral courage in joining themselves to David. Forsaking the comforts and accoutrements of Saul’s court they faced impossible odds with David’s outlaw band. They had already selflessly abandoned themselves to David and, perhaps more significantly, to the word of the Lord over his life. When it came time for the third and final anointing at Hebron the scripture says:
These were the chiefs of David’s mighty men they, together with all Israel, gave his kingship strong support to extend it over the whole land, as the Lord had promised …
1 Chronicles 11:10; also v 1-3 NIV
Their association with David was not just the ‘gung-ho daring-do’ of youthful men, but a considered commitment to prophetically revealed destiny. They were fully cognizant of Samuel’s anointing of David and the different spirit by which he was animated. This discernment of prophetic purpose then demanded their all. The call of the kingdom wrenched them from hearth and home and all that was dear. As Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). Every human relationship, every security and personal right, must be laid down to pursue the call of the King and his kingdom. It demanded the forsaking of all their prestige and position in Saul’s regime.
Their battle prowess was, therefore, only a reflection of a life already laid down. It is significant that repeatedly these men swam against the tide. In battle they stood their ground while others retreated. While all fled in one direction they went the other. They did not go with the crowd; nor will those who hear the call of the kingdom over the cry of self-preservation. Their lodestar was the old aphorism that “others may, but you may not.”
This is the distinguishing mark of the forerunner—in the face of impossible odds they move into the kingdom animated by a force of spirit others do not possess: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Mtt 11:12).
Having heard the voice of destiny they have settled the question of ownership. They are no longer their own (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23); and so, in the heat of battle they are able to lay their lives on the line. They are able to offer themselves in sacrificial feats of bravery, and thereby, see God work on their behalf. God plus one surrendered life will always be a majority!
And so, what to the natural eye was impossible became possible. God’s providences fulfilled his promises. Men and circumstances, despite impossible odds, were moved by the hand of providence toward the fulfilment of David’s prophetic destiny. Saul and his system were removed and the Davidic order established in its place.
But the challenge remains for us: will we go with the flow, with the established order, or make the break? Will we pursue selfish advantage, or the “high call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14)? Will we, as David’s ‘mighty men’, “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12), standing alone in the face of a system hostile to the heart of God? And will we submit to the circumcision of heart that tears us away from Saul and the motivation of his value-system?
My understanding of the Saul-system
Before we conclude I need to explain my understanding of the Saul-system. It is not primarily a denominational or organisational structure; it is not so much how we do church; rather, it is why we do church. Our structures have only served to institutionalise the underlying idolatry of self. Saul’s besetting sins were – and ours still are – self-will and self-preservation. In all human societies – including the redeemed – this creates a false value-system, which is only then served by structure. This was the motivating force behind Babel – the first human society – when they declared, “Let us build a tower .. .to make a name for ourselves …” (Gen 11:4). And so, these sins of the heart motivate and animate the Saul-system and are, therefore, more or less common to all Christian groups. This is the source of denominational-ism and sectarian-ism.
Two categories of mighty men: the Adullam band and the Hebron band
There are many today who are looking for the new order—for community transformation and the increase of the kingdom. But as with David’s kingdom there are two categories of ‘mighty men’: those who gathered to David in the wilderness (Adullam and Ziklag), and those who gathered later at Hebron (1 Chr 12:1 cf v 23). The former were a small band of initially 400 – and later 600 (1 Sam 22:2; 27:2; 30:9) – the latter numbering many thousands (1 Chr 12:23-37). So, what was the difference? The death of Saul. After his death they came out of the woodwork, flocking to David’s support at Hebron. But we must ask who will have the greater reward: the `Adullam-Ziklag band’ or the `Hebron band’?
Let us be unequivocal—the Saul-system will ultimately fail. And when it does there will be an influx of souls into the heart of David’s camp—into the very heart of our heavenly David himself. These, as in David’s army, are still described as ‘mighty men’. As warriors and forerunners they will still be instrumental to the increase of the kingdom—they are still part of the advance guard. But this `Hebron band’ will be second to those who had already identified with David in the wilderness. While Saul was still alive – at the loss of reputation, prestige, and position – the `wilderness forerunners’ were the cutting edge of the advance guard. They blazed the trail for the less intrepid, for the coming `Hebron band’. And as those who suffered with David in the wilderness, they would also reign with him in Zion (2 Tim 2:12).
In this ‘third day’ of the church, David’s `third anointing’ is imminent. Just as David received the anointing for the fullness of the kingdom, likewise Christ – as the son of David – has ascended to the throne; but in his case, to the “throne of the Majesty on high” and been anointed as the King of kings to rule, not just an earthly city, but the entire cosmos (Heb 1:3-14). As earth shattering as this is, there is more: Christ now also shares his inheritance as High-King of heaven with those that are his, endowing them – as fellow-heirs – with the royal prerogatives and grace for rulership. They too are anointed as king-priests for the governance of the universe (Rom 8:17; Eph 1:17-23; 1 Pet 2:9; Rev 1:6; 5:10; Ps 8).
While, for Christ and his body, the day of Pentecost signalled the initial outpouring of this ‘third anointing’ its fullness in the church is now imminent. Nevertheless there is still time while David’s ‘mighty men’ gather to him in the wilderness—at Adullam and Ziklag. This is in preparation to go up to Hebron to receive the ‘second anointing’ and thence to rule over Judah for 7 1/2 years (2 Sam 2:1-4). Only then receiving the ‘third anointing’ for the conquering of Jerusalem and establishment of Zion as the city of David, so as to rule over all Israel (2 Sam 5:1-12).
The lesson is clear: the kingdom of God emerges incrementally. As the prophet declared:
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:7 ESV
We are facing some choices: will I wait for Saul to die – for the convenience and comfort of Hebron – or will I go to David, in the wilderness, now? Will I hold on to the status and security of the visible structure; or seeing that which is invisible, will I “call the things that are not as though they are” (Rom 4:17)? Am I willing to go to Christ now, and suffer with him, baring the reproach outside the camp (Heb 13:13)?
This is not the populist line. There is no question—we will lose our reputations and the comforts of Saul’s camp! But what a joy to know that I have fulfilled destiny, that I have responded to the heart-cry of God, so that “When You said, `Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, `Your face, Lord, I will seek'” (Ps 27:8). Now is the time to seek Christ outside the camp.
Print-friendly pdf: Forerunners of the New Order