Mike Bickle

B. Childress
Mar 12 2010 08:00AM

How did David become the great warrior king and lover of God we know him as today?  Was he born that way?  No.  He
had the raw material for greatness, as we all do, but David had to go through seasons of preparation, just as we all go
through seasons in becoming men and women after God's own heart.  We are privileged through Scripture  to know
more about David's life than about any other biblical person besides Jesus.  We know that at about age seventeen he
was told he would be king.  We know that God then took him through a twenty-year prophetic journey of preparation
marked by five different seasons that would equip him for his calling.  These five seasons speak to us as we seek to
become men and women after God's heart.  They mark the path we must follow to achieve that vision, which includes the
full measure of power and intimacy with God we seek.

David's life is a prophetic picture of how God brings us into the fullness of our calling by establishing our identity in the
Lord.  God brings us through specific stages of preparation so we can inherit all He has promised us.  Unfortunately for
us, humans don't learn well in good circumstances, so the Lord often trains us in the midst of problems.  In those
seasons, we put down roots in Him as our sole source of validation.

Each season in David's life had a specific city and a specific lesson associated with it.  The cities are:

  • Bethlehem

  • Gibeah

  • Adullam

  • Hebron

  • Zion

Let's apply the lessons we encounter in each of these to our own journeys as we seek to become people with hearts
after God's.

Bethlehem: Faithfulness in Small Things

Like Jesus many years later, David was born in Bethlehem, the youngest of eight sons of Jesse and the lowest in rank
and privilege in the family structure.  In his early years, he became a shepherd.  As we have seen, keeping the sheep in
that society was not a distinguished occupation.  If the family could afford it, they delegated this dirty task to the
servants.  But in Jesse's family, the job fell to David.  So, like other shepherds, he stood around all day on the hard
rocks, alone under the hot sun with the sheep as his only companions.  We like to imagine David sitting in the shade on
the hillside with lush, green grass and sheep gathered around him like fluffy cotton balls.  We think of him as a modern
farm boy a Huck Finn lying on his back admiring the sky with a stalk of hay between his teeth.  But that's not how the
story went.  David lived for several years in what amounted to solitary confinement in a desert environment.  His flock was
small, so he was the only one needed to do the tiresome work (I Samuel 17:28).  He was very much alone in harsh terrain.

You have to wonder what God saw in David that He didn't see in his brothers, who are little known except as scoffers.  
The key is in these Bethlehem years.  David was too young to have done anything extraordinary.  He hadn't cast out
demons, healed the sick, or preached anointed sermons.  His great exploits all lay in the future.  The only portrayal we
find of him during this time is of him keeping the sheep (I Samuel 16:11).  We might think of him as a gas station
attendant or a janitor.  His life was filled with menial tasks nobody wanted to do, yet he did them with a spirit of devotion
toward the Lord.  That was David's first victory.  He had a heart that sought God when seeking God seemed the least
obvious thing to do.  In the midst of the long and lonely days, David was having dynamic interaction with God in his
heart.  He had a yes in his spirit, even in his routine, boring job.

When no one was looking, he was faithful with little things and resolute in his responsibilities.  He risked his life to kill a
lion and a bear to protect his father's sheep.  Later, when he was talking to Saul about Goliath, Saul asked him, "Why do
you think you can defeat Goliath?"  David said, in essence, "Well, the Lord's already been with me.  My dad told me to
take care of the sheep, so when a lion and bear came after the sheep, I took a sword and killed them."  (See I Samuel 17:
35).  It reminds me of what Proverbs 20:6 says: "Most men will proclaim each of his own goodness, but who can find a
faithful man?"  Many proclaim they are faithful and good, but who can find a faithful man when no one is looking?  David
was such a man, and you and I are to be such people, even in the desert times.

There in Bethlehem, David received God's call on his life.  God's primary earthly goal for David was to make him a
worshiping warrior king, being loved by God and being a lover of God.  We read that:

    "And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over
    Israel?  fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided me a king
    among his sons."   I Samuel 16:1

We too will receive the first confirmation of our calling in our own "Bethlehem."  God's sequence of events works like this:
when we are faithful in small beginnings, the Lord begins to release some of His promises concerning our destiny.  It's
like the first waters of spring running down a formerly dry creek bed.  For David, that day came without warning.  He had
no clue, as far as we know, that he was destined to sit on the throne.  He was one of hundreds of ordinary young men
living in Israel.  We can only imagine he didn't have a huge vision for his career.  But one day, Samuel, the most famous
person in Israel, came to Jesse's home for dinner, surely one of the greatest occasions in that household's history up to
that point.  Jesse invited seven sons but did not invite David.  He was left out in the pasture with the sheep.

Imagine being shunned by your own father on such a rare and sacred occasion.  Even Jesse didn't see what God saw in
David's heart.  But Samuel called for the youngest boy and prophesied that amazing days were ahead for David.  Those
first waters of spring began to flow.  David was ushered into a new era of knowing what was ahead of him.  I can picture
the utter astonishment of his father and brothers as the oil flowed down his face and neck - their little shepherd, a king?

Many people in the church have had similar experiences.  They are residing in their personal Bethlehem when one day
they run smack into the call of God on their lives.  Someone prophesies about their future, and they taste those first
waters of spring.  Suddenly, they understand that they have a place in God's plan that goes beyond what they had
considered.  They get chills of joy, and their mind works overtime thinking of the possibilities.  They want to stay up all
night planning their future.

That's natural, and the Lord rejoices with us in the excitement of that moment, but we must keep in mind that this is only
the very beginning of the journey.  David received the prophecy from Samuel when he was about seventeen years old.  
But he didn't become king of Israel until he was thirty-seven!  Twenty years of monumental ups and downs lay between
him and the earthly prize of reaching Zion, his place of destiny.  Think of that.  David had no idea the promise would take
twenty years to come to pass.

You too may have received a first prophecy or insight into what you will accomplish for God.  The automatic response is
to say, "Let's get to it, Lord!  Bring it on."  You want to speed all the way to the finish line without stopping.  But you must
thoroughly absorb the lessons of Bethlehem.  The small days are for a reason.

Most people might have stewed in anger during those years, wanting to leave the grubby tasks and get on to the big
stuff.  But David somehow used the time to grow in intimacy with God.  Though he had no recognition from his family, he
knew he had great value from his relationship with God.  He fulfilled his demeaning responsibilities with integrity of heart
and skillfulness of hands (Psalm 78:70-72).  He became a genuine worshiper of God.

In our own lives, the small days will make us faithful in small things so we can be trusted later with big things.  The Lord
said through Zechariah, "who despises the day of small things?"  (Zechariah 4:10, NIV).  And Jesus said, "And if you
have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?" (Luke 16:12).  We have to be faithful
in serving others before God gives us our own.  And we must be faithful in natural things to be entrusted with heavenly
things.  Nobody starts with a large stadium ministry or a large business or a world wide healing center.  We start by
setting patterns of righteous behavior in small matters:  paying our bills, being honest in our relationships, following
through with commitments, taking blame when necessary, managing another person's money or ministry well.  Jesus
gave us a foundational kingdom principle that only when we are faithful over few things will He make us ruler over many
things (Matthew 25:21).  This promise has its fulfillment in this age and in the age to come, but the promise always starts
with few things.  That is what Bethlehem represents.

This is also the place where we learn to find our satisfaction not in the prophecy or promise but in God.  He must be the
sole source of our identity.  Every ounce of David's identity, value, and success was established in his being loved by
God and being a lover of God - nothing more, nothing less.  That rootedness would help him be a successful king many
years later.

You can tell when a person is finding his or her identity in the task or promise because he tries to force the fulfillment of
the promises on his life.  He strives to advance, strives to gain favor with powerful people.  He spreads tension to people
around him with a competitive, impatient spirit.  You can tell something's not right because you know the person is called
of God, but there's a division in his spirit.  It doesn't make sense outwardly, but inwardly he is struggling mightily to define
his identity.

This has probably happened to you at one time or another.  The only remedy is to return to your roots and find your
identity in God alone.  Only in that revelation will you learn to live in peace, with the absence of striving.  You find great
joy in small tasks, as David did being a shepherd long after Samuel's visit was a mere memory.  Bethlehem is the place to
discover that your success comes not from what you do but from who you are in God.

David latched on to this truth at an amazingly young age.  He already felt successful because of his relationship with
God.  He was not in a frenzied panic to make sure people recognized his calling, like many in the church today.  He
derived his sense of greatness by being loved and being a lover of God.  That should be our model.  We all want to feel
important, but when we truly embrace the deep revelation of God's heart for us, the struggle to feel important is settled.  
We don't seek importance in our job, other people, or marriage or children, or in our ministry or service to the church.  
We know our great value is hidden in Him.

Each of us starts in Bethlehem, finding our identity in God and becoming faithful in small things.  It would be much nicer,
from a carnal perspective, to skip Bethlehem and go right to Zion.  But the journey to our highest destiny starts with little
responsibilities.  It may mean being neglected, pushed aside, and ignored, but this significant season lays the foundation
for success later on.  It's an essential, inescapable part of the journey from which nobody is exempt not even the
Messiah.  Both David and Jesus had their small beginnings in Bethlehem, yet both were destined to rule with God's
authority.  If the eternal King started in Bethlehem, so will anyone who follows Him.

Gibeah:  The Test of Early Promotion

    "Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep.  And
    Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul.  
    And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer.  And
    Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me, for he hath found favour in my sight."      I
    Samuel 16:19-22

After Samuel anointed David, the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit troubled him.  As a cure
for his ugly mood, Saul's servants recommended David to play music to comfort him.  They referred to David as "skillful in
playing...prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him" (I Samuel 16:18).  So David moved to
the city of Gibeah, the capital of Saul's government (I Samuel 15:34; 18:2).  He lived there from approximately the time he
was seventeen to when he was twenty-three.  Saul was greatly pleased with him, and David found favor in Saul's eyes.  
David also found favor with the entire nation of Israel, which had been in full-scale military crisis because of Goliath the
Philistine.  David was used by God to pull the nation out of a disaster.  He became a national hero and brought the
nation into a significant victory.

The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between

    And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath...Then he stood and cried out to the
    armies of Israel, and said to them, "...Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me.  If he is able to
    fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants.  But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be
    our servants and serve us." ...when Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and
    greatly afraid...

    Then David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine."

    And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he
    a man of war from his youth."

    ...Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin.  But I come to
    you in the name of the LORD of hosts...This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand...that all the earth may
    know that there is a God in Israel..."

    ...So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him...Now the
    men of Israel and Judah rose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines.   

    I Samuel 17:3-52

In this second season of life, David had his first taste of earthly success, and it was significant.  In our day, his invitation
to work at the king's side as his personal armorbearer would be like the president of the United States asking a teenager
to work as an aide in the White House.  Such a person would be a celebrity wunderkind.  So the whole nation of Israel
knew about David.  He went from tending sheep to serving the king in one day.  The nation raved about him in popular
songs of the day.  God snatched him out of the hills of Bethlehem, significantly increased his salary, and gave him favor
before man.

What David probably didn't know was that in all this early success, God was testing the character of his love and
servanthood.  Would he continue to draw on his spiritual identity in God, or would he begin to find value and importance
from his new position of honor?  This was the test of promotion God set before David in Gibeah.

Blessing tests us differently than adversity.  Before blessing comes, we imagine we will be so faithful to handle men's
approval with great humility.  But when most people receive even a little bit of praise or money or success, they get
completely thrown off.

    "As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise [The crucible is for silver, and the
    furnace is for gold, so a person is tested by being praised, NRSV]."  Proverbs 27:21

It's amazing how quickly success affects the human heart.  Something goes crazy in people, and they swoon with
intoxicating pride upon receiving even the smallest amount of earthy honor.  They find themselves unable to "tend
sheep" anymore.  They see all the people standing in line waiting to see them, and they conclude they can no longer
bother with menial jobs.  They say, "I don't have time for small stuff.  I'm the anointed of God."  They get distracted in the
swirl of new activity.  They fight to uphold their new image.

The history of the human race tells us that when most people get promoted even a little, they don't become more
devout.  Rather, they lose their tenderness toward the Lord.  They lose intimacy with Him and begin to see their identity
in their ministry.  That's why God warned, "Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God...lest - when you have
eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses...when your...silver and your gold are multiplied...when your heart is
lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God" (Deuteronomy 8:11-14).

David was a different sort.  When he was promoted to Gibeah, he continued to live from his heart as he did in Bethlehem,
faithful to his small responsibilities.  He went back and forth between Saul's court and the hillside in Bethlehem, taking
supplies to his brothers, who were in Saul's army, and then returning home to take care of the sheep (I Samuel 17:15,
18, 22).  Though he was beginning to taste the favor and esteem of men, he continued to be faithful in insignificant tasks.

What was his secret?  He was not on a quest for success and importance, because he already had it in being loved by
God.  He had learned the lesson of Bethlehem, and not even the success of Gibeah shook him from it.  David declared,
"O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit...Now in
my prosperity I said, 'I shall never be moved.'  LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong" (Psalm
30:3, 6-7).  He was declaring that even in times of prosperity, he would not be moved.  He would not give himself over to
the fleeting praise of men but would anchor his soul in the Lord.

God knew this season of favor would only be temporary.  He wanted David to learn to respond with humility and love
whether in Bethlehem or Gibeah, isolation or the national spotlight.  Often, the Lord will give us a certain amount of
success to equip us for the wilderness years that are yet ahead.  We will suddenly find ourselves in a position of
prominence or leadership where people value our time and opinions.  We will feel an amazing rush from all the attention.  
People will praise us in private and in public.  We will receive the applause of men.  But that's never the end of the story.  
Life alternates between times of promotion and times of struggle, times of favor and times of difficulty.  Most people never
imagine that the season of success will change, but it almost always does.  No season continues unbroken in life.  As we
journey forward, the prosperity and favor of men will come and go, and in the end they're not worth much.  But when we
learn how to lean on Him alone in times of success, we will know how to find Him in times of difficulty.

The lesson of Gibeah is that promotion comes not from the east, west, or south but from the north - from the Lord (Psalm
75:6-7).  He encourages us to not be swept up in the temporary favor or persecution of men.  This divine training
process is on display all throughout Scripture.  Remember Moses, who was the head of Pharaoh's house and one of the
leaders in Egypt.  He had great authority when he was forty years old.  He must have thought the hard years were over.  
Yet the Lord had a different plan.  He moved Moses from prominence to the wilderness for forty years.  Then He raised
him up again and made him one of the greatest men of all history.

Joseph too experienced early promotion and demotion.  He received favor from his father, but that got him in trouble with
his ten older brothers.  He was sold as a slave to the Egyptians, then found himself over the whole guard in Potiphar's
house.  He may have thought all the promises were coming to pass and he was on the permanent high road, but there
was another dungeon ahead.  He was sent to prison for a number of years.  Finally he was entrusted with all the wealth
of Egypt.

Still another man of God experienced this seesaw of success and difficulty.  Saul of Tarsus, who would become the
apostle Paul, had a supernatural encounter with Jesus on the way to Damascus (Acts 9).  The whole Christian world was
talking about this new convert.  But after his immediate international success, he spent at least fourteen years in the
desert without anything happening in his ministry.  Then, for a while, he had a successful healing and evangelism
ministry, but then it was off to prison and beatings and death.

Each man in these examples learned to find his identity in God in the character-testing time of early success.  That's
what we learn from David's years in Gibeah.  Have you tasted success?  Did you realize your character was being
tested?  God wants you to establish your identity fully in Him and learn to handle the favor of men in the same way you
handled the obscurity.  If you pass test, you "graduate" to the next season - though you may wish you hadn't.

Abullam:  The Cave of Difficulty

    "David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's
    house heard it, they went down thither to him.  And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt,
    and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and
    there were with him about four hundred men."   I Samuel 22:1-2

After the praises and promotion in Gibeah, David's career took a sharp turn.  He lost all favor in Saul's court.  Instantly,
the outward trappings of success fell away.  His fame and popularity had created a raft of jealous enemies who now
emerged with knives drawn.  Saul rose up to kill him and enlisted three thousand men to chase, capture, and murder
him.  They were each given a salary, food, and transportation, all for the purpose of killing him.  Seldom has there been
such a dramatic reversal.  David, probably confused and exasperated, at least initially, fled and made his headquarters
in the dark, damp wilderness cave of Adullam.  There he gathered four hundred men together and for about seven years
they and their families wandered the wilderness.

This was the complete opposite of the lifestyle he had grown accustomed to in the king's court in Gibeah.  He lived
exposed to the elements, sleeping wherever nature afforded him a decent bed.  He had to worry about food and water.  
There were no servants like in Saul's court: no living quarters, no cooks.  He couldn't just blend in because everybody in
the nation knew who he was.  He was marked for death.  Spies tracked him and told Saul of his whereabouts.  God
slammed the brakes on David's early success, rammed it into reverse gear, and took him into one of the toughest times

Gibeah had tested him with praise and success.  Now Adullam was testing him with hardship.  This was no fairy-tale
season of sanitized suffering.  It was touch and go, with lives hanging in the balance.  God's promises appeared distant
and faint.  David became truly discouraged a few times and concluded they would never come to pass.  He said in his
heart, "Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul" (I Samuel 27:1).  He complained, cried, screamed, threw temper
tantrums, and quit a couple of times.  He never quit in the long term, but he was overcome with discouragement for
months at a stretch.  At times he said, "God, just kill me.  I'm not going to be a king anyway."  Then he would repent of his
wrong attitudes and say, "OK, I'm going to follow You with all my heart.  You win again."  He was often mad, hurt, and
despairing.  And who wouldn't be?

God put David in Adullam for seven long years to firmly root his identity to God.  The lessons of this season, though
extremely difficult to learn, would prove to be his protection when he became king of Israel.  In the same way, God
doesn't want us to get our identity even a little bit from our anointing or earthly success but from being loved by God and
being a lover of God.  Our ministry can fall apart.  The people who admired us can leave.  The blessing of the Spirit can
lift off our labors for a season.  We can lose our building, our home, and our financial base, but if we love God and He
loves us, we are still successful.  This is the sure inheritance the Father has promised us.

If we are to become people after God's own heart, it's important that we remain so in tune with God's reality that we
encounter Him in good times without becoming proud and in bad times without giving up.  We must remember when we
suddenly are shoved into an Adullam season that God has a divine pattern for maturing us.  Wilderness seasons can
cause great confusion.  It appears as though the plan of God for our life has changed.  Yet in truth, God has only
changed our season, not our purpose or destiny.  Those are firm in Him.  Our only job is to pass the test of the season
we're in.

David's difficult congregation

Adullam was tough for another reason as well.  The people who gathered to David were not exactly Israel's best and
brightest.  Their spiritual roots were not deeply anchored in God.  They were not four hundred people overflowing in God
and ready to serve with joy.  On the contrary, they were in distress, in debt, and discontented with Saul and the
government.  We might think of them as the losers of society, the guys who got into scrapes and fights and legal
tangles.  Some of them were outlaws who were emotionally and financially immature.  The rest were burned out, stressed
out, angry, and wounded.  They came to David and said, "Take care of us.  It's time somebody else thinks for me!"

This sounds like a lot of churches today who are camped out at Adullam.  Their people collapse when things don't go
right.  They get blindsided by the changing season.  They have a hard time holding on to God when things go wrong.  
The great news is that these men were transformed from a needy group of people to become the mighty men of David by
the end of the story.

In Adullam, God taught David a dual lesson about his own sin and weakness as well as the sins and weaknesses of those
who joined him.  When David had Saul at the end of a spear, his men counseled, "Kill him! The word of the Lord said you
would triumph over him.  Go ahead and use that sword of yours."  David responded, "He's the Lord's anointed.  I can't kill
him."  They gave him bad advice because they didn't see God as David's source, but David saw differently.  That's why
he was king.  He ruled his soul.  He understood that there are times to disagree with people around you for the sake of
obeying God.

Idealism and naiveté about relationships are removed from us in Adullam.  This is the place where we discover that God
is real and He alone is our supply even in great distress, not the people He sends our way.  Many Christians go from one
disappointment to another because they put too much stock in relationships with the people God puts in their lives.  They
shift their sense of success to their valued friendships or how well they work with people,  and this leads to making
decisions based on the opinions of people around them.  This is an easy deception to fall into, especially in the body of
Christ where we place such a high value on each individual.  But in times of hardship we learn to rule our spirit, as the
Bible says.  We get so anchored in God that if everything collapses and everyone turns against us, we say as David
said, "I will bless the LORD at all times.  His praise shall continually be in my mouth"  (Psalm 34:1).  We learn to subject
ourselves entirely to God's will, not man's opinions.

    "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls."   Proverbs 25:28

The good news of Abdullam is that it gives you hints and foreshadowing of what you can expect in the time of God's full
release of your destiny.  The Lord will actually test you with the opposite of what He plans to give you in the time of
blessing.  For example, the Lord may have in mind to bless you financially, so in the Adullam time somebody might cheat
you out of five thousand dollars.  The way to pass that test and season is to recognize that all your money belongs to the
Lord since He is your source.  When you settle that issue, you view money differently.  You place your identity in Him, not
in your checkbook.  You are prepared for prosperity.

The same principle applies with being criticized.  If criticism hurts you, then praise will affect you negatively as well.  Both
criticism and praise are invitations to find your identity in opinions of people.  If you can handle all the conflicting
opinions, the critics, and the flatterers without changing your opinion of yourself and God, you will be prepared to move
on.  Or consider the anointing of God on ministries.  If you can't be faithful without the manifest anointing on your
ministry, then you certainly won't be faithful with it.  You will get excited, take things into your own hands, and cause a lot
of harm.

So the struggles you are visited with in Adullam turn out to be training for the way God wants to bless you in Zion.  In your
time of deepest struggle you will see hints of what's to come in your life.  But don't be too hasty.  Another season lies
between you and the place of your destiny.

Hebron:  The Beginnings of the Prophetic Purpose

    "And it came to pass after this, that David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of
    Judah?  And the LORD said unto him, go up.  And David said, Whither shall I go up?  And he said, Unto Hebron."   
    II Samuel 2:1

After approximately seven difficult years in the wilderness, the season finally changed with the death of King Saul.  David
came out of the desert at about thirty years of age.  Upon hearing of Saul's death, his first response might have been,
"At last, I can be king over all Israel!"  His men jumped to this assumption.  They cried with a sense of relief, "David!
You're finally king.  Let's move in."  But in this key moment, David did something surprising.  Instead of agreeing with his
men, he responded, "Maybe God doesn't want me to be king of Israel in this season.  Let me ask the Lord first."

This possibility was almost too painful to consider.  His men might have said, "What do you mean?  God has spoken it,
Saul is out of the way, and you've been waiting for nearly thirteen years since the prophet Samuel anointed you."  But
David did the unexpected thing.  He sought God's heart.  He demonstrated what people who are intimate with God do
before making big decisions.  He asked the Lord if he should go up to live in any of the cities of Judah instead of going
straight to Gibeah to replace Saul.  He prayed one of the great prayers in his life, "Shall I go up?" - meaning, should he
go up to Gibeah to replace Saul as king.  The Lord answered him and told him to go up to Hebron instead.

That answer disappointed David's men.  Going up to Hebron meant David was only taking about a twelfth of the kingdom
Saul had governed.  David could have agreed with all those around him and interpreted the death of Saul as the
indication that God had made a way for him to be king over all Israel, but he left room for the voice of God.  An open door
in the natural stood before him, but he refused to enter it without the direct leading of the Lord.  Beloved, this is how we
must behave!  We must never think we can advance willy-nilly without seeking the Lord's heart for a situation.  Just
because things seem to be falling together doesn't mean the right time has come.  We must sense in our spirits and
discern if an open door is of God or if it leads down a false path.  The Holy Spirit will give us wisdom about this at the time
of decision.

The Lord told David to go to Hebron and only take a little bit of the kingdom.  There were twelve tribes of Israel, and
Hebron represented only one.  God was testing and training David once again.  He wanted David to find his identity in
God, not in being king of Israel.  Therefore, God only released a partial fulfillment of the full destiny promised to him.

God will do this to us too.  It's an agonizing experience, but it builds incredible patience in us.  David spent seven more
years limited to the city of Hebron.  Remember, at this point, he had waited to be king for thirteen or fourteen years.  Still,
he didn't become angry with God for making him wait through another season of testing.  He knew the Lord would give
him all of Israel when it was time.  He was after the perfect will of God and would not settle for less.  The only reason
David could act this way lay in his identity: being king of Israel was not the key to his sense of importance.  And we too
will triumph in the lesson of Hebron when we see we are already successful before God and don't strive for success
before men by going after position and honor.  If this lesson first learned way back in Bethlehem isn't part of our very
fiber, we may fail in this fourth season of life.

Forming the team

One reason God gave David only one-twelfth of the kingdom in Hebron was because He wanted David's core of fighting
men - the future army of Israel - to become mature and seasoned.  If God gets the core right, He can add the multitudes
later.  David's band of men had grown to about six hundred.  Some formerly were independent, self-willed, stubborn, and
in it for themselves.  They were strong in bravery and might individually, but not strong together and not strong in the
Lord.  They had spent many years relying on their own brawn and skills, but God was committed to transforming them
into a covenant community.  He wanted a core of submitted, committed leaders free of ambition.  God has no use for
freelancers or mavericks, no matter how highly skilled.  To their credit, these men humbled themselves and came
together for the covenant purposes of God.  They became loyal and unified.  They became righteous warriors, using
their strength for the greater glory of God and Israel instead of doing their own thing.  They found the secret that working
together produces far greater  results than going it alone.  They became a mighty army that God used to make Israel
great among the nations.

Hebron speaks to us of finding God in times of partial fulfillment of His promises.  This can be a painful season in our
lives.  The blessing seems to come so slow.  You may pass the test of isolation and obscurity in Bethlehem, the test of
early promotion in Gibeah, and the test of adversity in Adullam.  But many of God's servants stumble in this place
represented by Hebron.  Things look so ripe, so ready that they think they have passed the ultimate test.  They grab
hold of the situation without inquiring of God.  They begin to cheat and find their identity in being a prominent, anointed
servant of God.  But we must keep our identities in Him even when the promises are at our very fingertips.  Even in that
place of tantalizing closeness, God demands a righteous response.  If He is truly the primary reward of our hearts, then
we will not need to be king.  He could tell us to go back to Bethlehem, and we would gladly do it.  Our occupation and
image before people should never motivate us.  Our greatest private agenda must remain to be loved by God and to be
a lover of God.  That's the lesson for us from David's season in Hebron.

Zion:  The Promises Fulfilled

After seven years of reigning in Hebron, David was thirty-seven years old.  It had been twenty years since the original
prophecy that he would be king over all Israel.  Now, Saul had four sons, three of whom were killed in battle with him.  But
one son, Ishbosheth, remained.  He was not a warrior and not kingly material.  He had no following among the people of
Israel.  All Israel knew that David was the rightful king.  Nevertheless, David refused to overthrow this son of Saul, who
was living at Gibeah and shaking like a leaf in fear of David.  David waited for the season of God's promotion.  It arrived
one day when Ishbosheth was murdered by wicked men.

    "Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy
    flesh.  Also in past time, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and
    the LORD said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel.  So all the elders
    of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and the king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD:
    and they anointed David King over Israel."   II Samuel 5:1-3

David had arrived.  This season of Zion speaks to us of the full release of what God promised David during his earthly
lifetime.  This is when the full prophetic destiny for our lives begins to be manifest.  David would soon capture Jerusalem,
referred to as "Zion" in Scripture, and set up his capital there instead of Gibeah.  The Bible says several things about this

    "And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him."   II Samuel 5:10

    "And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have
    made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth."   II Samuel 7:9

    "And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for
    his people Israel's sake."   II Samuel 5:12

There are several lessons for us in Zion.  The first is this:  there is no substitute for the confidence we feel upon arriving
at our destiny in God's time and in His way.  David knew God had made him king.  He didn't cheat along the journey or
claim the kingship by force.  He didn't kill Saul or negotiate with Abner or overthrow Ishbosheth.  He didn't manipulate or
prod anyone to come down to Hebron and make him king.  So when he did become king over all Israel, he felt totally
secure.  He could relax.  He could lie down on his bed and take a nap and not worry about keeping the kingdom in his
control.  Being king was God's idea, not David's.  David didn't have to keep his position by strife and manipulation.

Many people work hard to get their ministry moving and happening.  They strive at work to attain a certain position.  But
sometimes they feel God hasn't moved fast enough on their behalf, so they hurry it along with unholy manipulation.  They
may get the position or prominence they want, but they lack any confidence in it.  They are consumed with fear that
somebody will take over their territory or steal their position.  They live with anxiety because they can't be sure God gave
the ministry or position to them in the first place.  They have built on a faulty foundation.  Beloved, I exhort you for the
sake of your purpose and destiny in this life, allow God to take you to your Zion!  Don't step out of line; don't rush.  There
is no second best in this.  You either arrive legitimately with the confidence of heaven behind you, or you arrive
illegitimately and riddled with anxiety.

The second lesson is:  God doesn't bring us to Zion for our personal enrichment.  Often the Lord's blessing will rest on a
person, congregation, nation, or city, and they start thinking the blessing was given mostly to add to their personal
prestige or lifestyle.  They think their success is a testimony to their strength of character rather than to the extraordinary
grace of God.  This is a danger we must avoid once we arrive at our destiny.  David knew God had chosen him for the
sake of the people.  The Lord didn't mind blessing David in the process. But His ultimate purpose in bringing him to Zion
was to bless others, not to give him a lifestyle of the rich and famous.  Arriving at Zion is about serving the kingdom in
greater measure - a privilege far greater than money or fame.

Third, some people imagine that when they finally reach the fullness of their promise and place of destiny, they will have
only joy.  They picture complete contentment in their anointing and prominence.  But it doesn't work that way, even in the
grace of God.  In our place of destiny, we will still experience pressures, persecutions, and pain.  People can be very
naïve about how happy they will be when they finally receive an anointing that makes their ministry or business large and
successful.  I know several men in their sixties who have very large ministries.  God is releasing the fullness of everything
He has ever promised them.  But each man has the same testimony: "It's not nearly as exciting as I thought it would be.  
In fact, it's much more difficult that I imagined."  They speak to crowds of thousands all over the world.  They see many
people saved and healed by the power of God.  But when they leave the stage, the only real satisfaction comes from
being loved by God and loving Him back.  This is true of those whom God prospers in the marketplace too.  When all the
honor and money come, they still only find security, success, and peace in God.  As you prepare to enter your destiny,
set your expectations correctly.

The fourth lesson is that Zion is a prophetic picture of Jesus being made King over all the earth just as David was king
over all Israel.  It would be a shame to miss this beautiful portrait of what's coming.  The Father has promised His Son an
inheritance, a bride who will be His eternal partner.  She will love Him in this age and the age to come.  She will find her
fulfillment in Him just as David found fulfillment of his earthly purpose in Zion.

Those are the five seasons you go through as God equips you to be a person after His heart, fulfilling your individual
and corporate destiny.  You start in Bethlehem, where you have an appointment with the small things.  If you can clean
the toilets there and feel wonderful fulfillment in the love of God, you are on the road of preparation.  If you no longer find
God in servanthood, you will be stuck in Bethlehem a long time.  Second, the Lord will often give you a little success and
blessing to test your heart at the beginning of your ministry, as He did David at Gibeah.  With early success you may
pray, "Lord, I am now ready to take over Billy Graham's mantle."  The Lord says, "No, I'm showing you your heart so I can
prepare you for the years to come."  Next, the Lord takes you through the season of testing and negative circumstances
near the cave of Adullam.  When you pass this test, you might again think you have arrived, but God moves you to
Hebron, where He gives you only one-twelfth of your promised destiny.  He establishes and matures you until you are
ready for Zion.  Seven years later, figuratively speaking, the fullness comes.  Yet even in the joy of fullness, there is still a
groan in your spirit.  The Lord will not allow any kind of anointing or mandate to take the place of the ultimate satisfaction
of loving His Son.

    "Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.  Who passing through the
    valley of Baca [pilgrimage] make it well; the rain also filleth the pools.  They go from strength to strength, every one
    of them in Zion appeareth before God."   Psalm 84:5-7

God has a prophetic pilgrimmage for every one of us.  All of us are at different levels of maturity and in different
seasons.  But like David, we can go through times of weeping, going from spring to spring and strength to strength.  At
the end of our story we will come up out of the wilderness, out of Adullam, leaning on the Lord's breast as John did at the
Last Supper.  We will be like the bride portrayed in the Song of Solomon at the end of her story as one victorious in love,
leaning tenaciously upon her Bridegroom King.  "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her
beloved?" (Song of Solomon 8:5).  She had no certainty in her own heart and motives.  She trusted only in the Lord.

I want to assure you that there's a divine pattern in your life.  In the pain and the maze of things, it seems as if there isn't
a plan and you are wandering aimlessly from cave to cave, pursued by armies much stronger than you, and surrounded
by losers.  Yet God has a strategic plan and is bringing you to a specific purpose.  Each one of us will, God willing, stand
before him one day in Zion.  When we submit to His divine leadership in every season of our lives, we will ascend out of
the wilderness entirely dependent on Him.  He alone will be the reward of our hearts through every season of life.

I want to pair this study with a profound lesson we learn from David that will help us through each of these seasons.  It
was such a powerful truth that Jesus repeated it as He hung on the cross.  The seven words will help us through the
darkest times of our journey.


AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART, by Mike Bickle, Copyright 2009, Charisma House.