David conferred with each of his officers…. He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God…let us bring the ark of our God back to us….” The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people. (1 Chronicles 13:1-4)
And yet things went horribly wrong: a man was killed and David became terrified of God.
In the above verses, notice all of the plural pronouns: we and us. David worked hard to build a consensus among the people.
David was quick to notice that the ark of the covenant of the Lord wasn’t used to consult God during the reign of King Saul (v. 3), but that’s exactly what David didn’t do. He built a consensus among the people without getting a “yes” from God. Even a unanimous decision of the people will fail if God isn’t in it!
Thankfully, in chapter 15, David corrects this omission. We read phrases like:
- “we did not inquire of [God] about how to do it in the prescribed way”
- we should do this “in accordance with the word of the Lord”
I also notice that David no longer sought consensus but merely announced to the people what was happening. In this successful attempt to move the ark, David’s only consultation was with God. After that, he made arrangements with the Levites, gathered his inner circle of leaders, and then asked the people to join in the celebration.
God had already spoken about how the ark of the covenant was to be moved: it was written in His word. Therefore, as noble as it might sound, there was no reason for David to seek a consensus from the people.
Even if it is not an area or activity explicitly addressed in the Bible, God’s will is to be sought before others are consulted. If God says “yes,” the leader must proceed even if the people say “no.” And the leader must not listen to the people’s “yes” if God has said “no.”
Consensus is fine in its place, but only in its proper place.
A mark of a godly leader is one who knows when to seek consensus among the people.
This is part 53 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.