1 Chronicles 12 recounts the gathering together of David’s “mighty men” to defeat Saul and crown David as King over Israel. It’s one of those passages that we dread being asked to read in front of the church because we know that our fellow members will cringe in awkward empathy and fidget with their bulletins as we mangle the pronunciation of all those ancient Hebrew names – Beracah, Jashobeam, Machbannai, Shaphatiah, and a swath of similar Semitic Shibboleths until we step away from the dais in a daze.
But the interesting portion of this passage occurs after the numbing nomenclature in the final three verses, when the warriors celebrate with a great feast:
38 All these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with a whole heart to make David king over all Israel. Likewise, all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David king. 39 And they were there with David for three days, eating and drinking, for their brothers had made preparation for them. 40 And also their relatives, from as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, came bringing food on donkeys and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of flour, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.
Several things stand out in this passage that may have some relevance for us. First, these men came together “with a whole heart” to make David their king, and the people of Israel likewise “were of a single mind.” In other words, everyone was united in purpose – in both heart and mind. Second, the people came and gave provisions to these warriors out of their abundance, so much so that they had to truck them in on donkeys, camels, mules, and oxen. There was plenty to go around! Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this abundance was the result of the people’s joy – their joy in working together toward a shared goal – not even waiting until the goal was fully realized. Verse 40 states that they came with these things “for there was joy in Israel.” In other words, the abundance of their giving reflected the joy that was already in their hearts!
With so many depressing headlines, it often seems difficult to remember that we who follow Jesus are called to be joyful. Joyfulness, however, is not something that depends on our circumstance, our happenstance (that’s what “happiness” is, and that comes and goes depending on what happens to us). On the contrary, joy, like contentment, is something that is always present in the hearts of those who love God – or, at least, it should be. And if we are truly joyful, then we are also in a position to respond to God’s call to bless others and share that joy with them.
As we look toward the coming months, let’s remember that joy is not just a destination – an end of the road – that we will arrive at and be done, but rather a way of living out the love that God has placed within us. And like those mighty men of long ago, let’s look forward to inviting as many as possible to share in that abundant feast around the table of the one true King.