David: Shepherd Boy (Nov. 4, 2018)
1 Samuel 16: 1, 6-7; 17: 19-26, 45-46a
David: Shepherd Boy
We’re beginning a series today on the life of David, looking at what we can learn for today from what happened in his life and specifically how he handled what happened in his life. And we begin by looking at his early life as a shepherd boy from the little town of Bethlehem.
We’re going to be focusing on two stories today. And we’re beginning with when David was anointed the king of Israel. Now this story actually began several years before this. Israel wanted a king and so they go to their current judge: the prophet Samuel. And they say we need a king. And Samuel says they are not going to want a king, that he’s going to do bad things, but they said they needed a king. And so Samuel anoints the one that God says to anoint; and it’s a big, strapping young man named Saul. And he becomes king. And Saul is an OK king for a little while, he won some battles, he lost some battles, but eventually he started to do the things that Samuel had warned the people about.
And Samuel becomes depressed at this news, but God comes to the prophet and he says, “don’t worry. I have rejected Saul, and I am going to make a new king. I want you to go to the little town of Bethlehem and find the family of Jesse because one of his sons will be the next king.” So Samuel goes to Bethlehem any invites Jesse to come and he said, “Jesse, one of your sons is going to be king.” And Jesse packs up all of his things and takes all of his sons (except one) and he goes to where Samuel is. And Samuel sees the first-born and he’s tall, and strapping, and handsome just like Saul, and Samuel says “this must be the one.” But Got says no. Specifically God says “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
One by one Jessie‘s sons are rejected until Samuel asks if he has any other sons. And Jesse says “there’s one more; but he’s the runt of the family, so we left him back tending the sheep.” Samuel says go get him, so he does. David is torn away from the sheep and brought all of a sudden to the famous prophet, and immediately is anointed king. Probably a bit shocking to him. He’s anointed king over Israel in a private little ceremony. And then told to go back to the sheep. And everyone goes home. And nothing changes. But David has now been anointed King and we’re told that the Spirit is now with him.
We fast-forward a little bit of time to get to our second story. Saul and the neighboring Philistines go to war. So Saul rises up the army, and Jesse sends all of his sons (except one) to go to the army. Like, hey Jesse, when are you going to get it? God shows which one is the best so why don’t you leave one of your other sons with the sheep and send the one that got anointed? But no, David is left at home.
The two armies meet in the valley and the Philistines choose a champion; the idea being that rather than having both armies fight and risk killing off the very precious people that both kingdoms need, just have one person selected from each side, the best warrior from each side, and they will do battle. And whoever wins that stands for the whole army. But I think it was also a trap by the Philistines. Because they had a champion of champions; they had a giant named Goliath that was 9 feet tall, with armor that weighed 120 pounds and a spear that was like a tree trunk. And everyone in Israel’s army looked at that and no one dared fight.
This continues for several days and finally Jesse and Jesse‘s wife must’ve been a little bit worried because they pulled David off of the sheep and they give him lunch for his brothers and send him to his brothers in the army. So David packs up and goes out to where the Army is. And he sees what happening, he sees Goliath is standing there in the valley and is saying terrible things about Israel, terrible things about Saul, and terrible things about God. And David asks why no one is fighting with the guy. After all, he has declared war on God; whoever fights this guy is going to have God fighting with him, he can’t lose. Still no one is willing and so David volunteers and gets brought to Saul, and Saul says “how could you fight him? You are barely a boy.” And David says “God is on my side. Just as God has protected me from lions and bears and wolves as I was protecting the sheep, so God will protect me from this giant.”
Now, the kingly thing for Saul to do is to say “no, I will not allow this boy to risk his life. I will fight the giant.” But Saul doesn’t do that. Instead he says “well, you can have my armor: it’s the best armor Israel can buy.” David puts the armor on, but David finds the armor to clunky and he can’t quite work with it, and he’s not used to it. So he leaves the armor behind because he knows that God on his side. He doesn’t need armor.
David walks up to the giant wearing only his tunic and carrying a slingshot. Now it is worth noting that the slingshot was an actual weapon of the day; we’re not talking about the little toy the kids pull back. This was an actual weapon. They would have a sling that they put a rock in and spin it around their head to get some speed going and then release the stone at speed similar to a bullet exiting a gun. But still, the guy’s got 120 pounds of armor on, still he’s 9 feet tall; what’s a little pebble going to do to this guy? But David walks out to him. And of course we know the rest of that story: the part that makes the children’s Bibles is that David throws one stone and it hits Goliath right between the eyes and Goliath falls down. And the part that doesn’t make the children’s Bibles: David finishes the job pretty gruesomely and then the army of Israel destroys the army of the Philistines. David is awarded by becoming a part of Saul’s court, which we will talk about his time in Saul’s court next week.
So what do we take from this? What sticks out to me the most from everything we just talked about was the fact that God chose David. And God chose David not because of what we might be looking for but because God saw something in David that God liked. And if God sees something that God likes, I want to know what that is so that I can get it, because I want to please God. What was it about David that God liked? What was it about David’s heart that made God choose him as king over God’s people forever?
David was pulled from tending the flock, called to his older brothers, people he likely looked up to, and then appointed leader of the whole nation including his father and older brothers with no warning whatsoever. What must’ve been going through the mind of David at that moment and then immediately he’s told to get back to his position at the youngest member of the family and go tend to sheep again. And he does it! David handles that, and he handles what we’re going to be talking about next week when he is a servant of Saul (having already been anointed king, he is now serving a different king); the way in which he handles that tells us a lot about David. It tells us that he understands the greater story; he understands the part that he is playing in the story; and he understands that he is not the main character, but that God is the main character in the story. And he will play his part and turn to God. He will keep God‘s timing in at all.
And we see when David and Saul are both presented with Goliath, we see the difference between those two people. One is afraid because he looks at Goliath and he looks at himself, and he says “I cannot win.” The other is confident because he looks at Goliath, and he looks at God, and he says “God can win.” One turns to God for guidance and one turns to God for trust. David saw what God could do in the situation; everyone else saw what they could do in the situation. Everybody, including Saul, sized themselves against Goliath while David sized Goliath against God. David is literally doing the phrase of “don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your God is.” Good saying there.
David focuses on the power that God has in the midst of any situation. Trusting God and trusting in the power of God it is a trait that all the people that are called “people of God” throughout Scripture all have: from Elijah, to David, to Jeremiah, to Mary mother of Jesus. The same reaction: that God is powerful and God will get me through; unites them. We must learn to yield to God as they did. I think that’s what God saw in David, and we must cultivate in our own life.
David is ordinary. The family was not nobility. I don’t think it was even nobility within the little town of Bethlehem, but it surely was not a nationally known family. It wasn’t a billionaire or whatever else you want to call it today. It was an ordinary family, and it had a bit of scandal in the history. Three generations earlier a member of their family by the name of Boaz married a Moabite, a filthy immigrant, an enemy of the people of Israel and they’re directly descended from that woman. By law they wouldn’t be called Israelite again until David’s generation; at least if Boaz and Ruth had been the ones to count instead of Naomi. And God calls a person from this family to be King. Just like God called the virgin from Nazareth. And just like God called the boy in Jeremiah. And just like God calls you and me. God doesn’t look for the rich and the powerful. God looks for the ordinary and equips them to be powerful.
David says it in the story with Goliath that David’s background helps him a lot. He was a shepherd. He tended the sheep. They relied upon him. He was their only source of protection. He and his slingshot had to stand against the world. And he would see the miracles of God in the midst of this. He would see God protect him from wolves, and bears, and lions. He would look out on the stars every night, back when light pollution was nothing to worry about. He could see them all. He would witness the joy of birth, and the pain of death in the miracle that was life. He’d seen it all. And all of it would cultivate faith. David had faith in God because he had seen God work personally. David had faith in God becauseof, not in spite of, his status as an lowly shepherd. David was right to be chosen by God because he was an ordinary person. God called to David. And God calls to you. I want you to follow your path in that same trust in that same faith that David had. Find that faith, and find that trust, within yourself, and use it to slay the giants in your way. Amen.