David’s followers were an early protest movement. Having fled from Saul’s capital, David now finds himself gathering an uprising that it is not clear he intended or understood. First, his family joins him. Then “all those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him.” And suddenly, from fleeing alone for his life, David is now the leader of a rebel army of 400 plus followers.
Our culture is a culture of protest. Every week there is a new protest going on. We are protesting racial inequality, sexual harassment, gun control, and the underpayment of teachers. We protest wars and taxes and statements and people. It has become chic to protest and so we do it, for good and bad reasons. Yet have we considered what God might think of all of our protests? Have we asked Him what He thinks or just asked Him to bless our work?
Here we have an example of God blessing a protest against an ungodly political leader. God left Saul for his disobedience, and David’s uprising stands against that. Yet David is the first to admit that he wants this protest to be different than what we usually expect. First, it is non-violent. With the perfect opportunity to kill Saul and cut the head off the proverbial snake, David declines and even in his non-violence feels remorse for his activity against the leadership. Second, it is patient. David is not looking to overthrow Saul but is instead biding his time. He has already been anointed by Samuel as the next king, but rather than rushing the plan, he is patiently waiting. And if you think his army was happy with that, you don’t know people very well. Finally, David’s protest took responsibility. David knows that his protest will cause violence and even get people killed. And he takes responsibility for that violence, not blaming it on Saul but proclaiming it as his own.
Protests are an effective way to speak truth into the silence of the powerful. Just because something IS does not mean that it SHOULD BE. But I think we could learn a lot about protest from David and the bible.