Our culture loves platforms. Any business person, any blogger, or any entrepreneur has heard the pitch on the necessity of building and maintaining a platform. The church is not immune to this strategy. In fact, platforms, audiences, and subscribers can easily become a base for boasting both outside and inside the church. If your platform and base for boasting is built on your self or your gifts, you will find yourself on a shaky base and stuck in a mindset of scarcity; however, if your platform and base for boasting is your Savior, you have the steadiest and broadest base for boasting. Even beyond that, you will find that your platform is a place of abundance that invites collaboration rather than competition.
Two different kings of Israel illustrate these two different approaches to boasting and platform-building.
Saul & the Shrinking Base
Saul began on the grounds of humility, as seen when he was initially approached by Samuel as the Lord’s selection of the king His people had demanded. Saul, who was on a mission to find the missing donkeys of his father, was taken aback by the prophet’s interest in him.
“Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”1 Samuel 9:21.
After his first God-empowered timely military victory over Nahash the Ammonite, Saul was quick to give all honor and glory to God, even when some of his awe-stricken soldiers wanted to put death all who had publicly doubted the newly anointed king.
But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel”…There they sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. 1 Samuel 11:14-15.
However, it did not take long for Saul’s platform to begin to shift from the Lord to himself. Despite the fact that God had proven Himself so obviously faithful and able against the Ammonites, Saul took action without waiting on word from the Lord against the Philistines only three years later. When confronted by Samuel on his selfish haste, Saul’s answer betrayed this shifting, shrinking platform that would lead to full-blown competitive paranoia as he aged.
Samuel said, “What have you done? And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered as Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering. 1 Samuel 13:11-12.
The shift may seem subtle to us, but both Samuel and the Lord knew that Saul’s heart gaze had turned from God to self and audience. Things disintegrate fairly quickly from here, as recorded in the chapters which follow. The remainder of book depicts Saul as a paranoid, jealous former king fighting to hold on to the scraps of his platform.
David & the Broad Base
David and Saul had similar enough beginnings. Both were Benjaminites who were chosen and anointed as kings in the midst of their obedience to their earthly fathers, one searching for donkeys, the other tending the flocks in the fields. Both received their selection in humility and shocked submission. However, when David who had already been secretly anointed as the future king, came face to face with the Philistines, most notably their giant Goliath, David stayed on the broader boasting ground of God.
Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:36-37
Throughout the many attempts on his life by the paranoid Saul, David continually fought to wait on and rely upon the Lord. During one of his flights for his life, David fled to Gath where he found himself in the clutches of another jealous king, Abimilech. David later penned Psalm 34 around this episode as an invitation to God’s people to boast in the Lord.
I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name forever. Psalm 34:1-3.
Despite the fact that David was abundantly gifted as a warrior, as a poet, and as a leader of God’s people, he fought to make the abundant God His base for boasting. As such, he did not become a jealous platform protector, competing with others for a scarcity of praise.
Rather, he was able to invite others onto the platform that he knew was ultimately God’s platform. Rather than viewing others as competitors, he invited them in as contributors.
The character and goodness of our God is the platform God invites each of us people to stand upon and boast in. There is ample room on this base for more. When we choose this platform rather than the shrinking platform of self with its fickle audience of man, we can echo David’s invitation: Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name forever.
Even more than King David, we can look to the eternal Son of David, Christ, who made the Cross his platform that we might receive His crown.