Shepherd and King

1 Samuel 16:1-13; 17:26-37

Dr. Chris White September 8, 2013

     There is an obvious reason we’re considering these stories of David this morning. It is not because a Mt. Rushmore of Judaism would have to include David, Israel’s second king in genealogy but first king in memory. It is not because David’s name is mentioned over 1500 times within 28 books of the Bible, from Ruth to Revelation. Those are good reasons, but we’ll consider these stories because they are some of the first stories we tell our children. And they are the first stories for our children because they do some of the heaviest lifting in explaining God’s work in our world and lives.

The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine - 1 Samuel 17:37

Our first story is from 1 Samuel 16:1-13. For context, we have already seen the rise and decline of Israel’s first king, Saul. While he is still on the throne and will be for years to come, God already has his eye on another to replace him. (Please read along with me.) The obvious thread in the passage is the misdirected expectations of Samuel. He has already anointed one king, Saul, who was a full head taller than his contemporaries. He looked like a king. And so Samuel’s move to anoint the oldest brother, Eliab, is for the same reason. Who can blame him? Why shouldn’t a king look like a king?

     God interrupts Samuel’s common sense with His uncommon sense of His will. Asking him to wade through all the sons of Jesse, He makes Samuel wait for the boy. The youngest son, the one spending nights in the field because he is the youngest son, walks in as the least kingly looking son of Jesse and gets God’s nod. The explanation is simple but far-reaching: God considers hearts, not height. He chose David for a reason. As the psalms will later reveal, he did not come by the faith in this poetry the night before he wrote it. We know what was on David’s mind on those nights in the field. Long before “the Lord is my shepherd” and “the Lord is my rock, my fortress and deliverer” was written on paper, it was written on David’s heart. Saul looked like a king, Eliab looked like a king, but they weren’t kings in their hearts. And that is where God was defining a king.

     It is hard to understate the importance of this idea. It means that God is not looking at the world’s measures and weights when considering us for service in His kingdom. The world has a hefty paycheck it is willing to grant for the right appearance, the right charisma, and the right competency. And there seems to be no limit on what people will pay in America for the right appearance, the right charisma, and the right competency. As far as we’re concerned, however, none of these are linked to serving God. Popularity with family, peers, and the mirror does not necessarily translate into usefulness for God. If we limit our sense of self and our sense of others by these measures then we risk disqualifying ourselves and others on grounds that do not matter. If we’re not willing to look beyond Eliab and wait for David, still in the field, we’re going to miss what is possible in the heart.

     Remember that the Twelve were not chosen for who their communities saw them to be. Jesus saw something in each of them. And the people we remember for their faith—Jesus’ mother, the woman at the well, the friends lowering their paralytic friend through the roof, the demon possessed man at the Gadarenes, and the woman breaking the perfume on Jesus’ feet—are people who did not meet the standards of height. God was looking for something else. He was looking for people willing to carry with Jesus the humiliation of trust, faith, love; service, surrender, and sacrifice; forgiving as you’ve been forgiven, washing one another’s feet, and taking up a cross.

     God is looking for something else in you, too. You may not measure up in the eyes of parents or peers. Then again, maybe you do. The world can only judge you by what it sees and how close you come to giving it what it wants. But that is not the measure that God ultimately considers when He considers you for service. And it may be that His belief in you begins precisely where everyone’s eyes ends.

     This is what the second story of David would tell us in 1 Samuel 17:32. Quick recap: David has wandered up on the ranks of Israel stunned and silent before the taunts of Goliath. He has offered to fight one soldier in place of a battle between armies. For obvious reasons, no one on the Israel side is moving. But David is not so intimidated. Read along with me in verses 32-37. The reason David is willing to fight a giant is because he has already faced giants. As a shepherd he braved many nights alone with God. And on those nights he faced lions and bears that wanted his sheep. He has, by his admission, stolen a sheep from the jaws of nightmares. And with God’s help he killed what was out to kill him. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

     Here is the idea: The day hearts of God are formed in the darkness.

     Few, if any, ever saw David in the dark. But God did. God knew David in a way that no one else knew David. We see in short order that Goliath did not know David. Nor did he know what a boy could do with a sling and stones. But God knew. He knew that this boy’s faith was forged in the darkness and in fear and in faith.

     It is no different for us. Like David, the faith that moves God is a faith forged in the darkness, away from the eyes of people. *Last weekend I was a landing pad for a bug. The problem is, the landing pad was my throat. It was the soft tissue at the back of my mouth, and it immediately swelled and left me feeling a bit nervous. In the end, it simply hurt a lot and bothered me with a gag reflex from the swelling. What is instructive, I think, is how mindful I was of the injury to soft tissue. It is hard not to panic. And fear the worst. And get angry. If we made a leap to considering things like security, offenses, vulnerabilities, doubts, and betrayals as the soft tissue places in life, we might see, like David, that these are the places where bears and lions roam. These are the places we must trust God. How we respond to slights and fears and pains is who we are in the dark. And it is the place to begin with God.

     If we’re only willing to follow God in the light we will see little of what God has promised in Christ. The field of darkness, solitude, and threats was where David’s heart was formed. “I don’t need help” is a bad place to start with God. On the other hand, “I am a boy, I am the least of my brothers, and I am alone among bears and lions” is a really good place to begin. Jesus’ call to deny self, take up a cross, and follow is a call to vulnerability. It is a call to follow GOD and trust GOD where only GOD can help.

     What can God do with your life in the daylight if He has no influence in your life in the darkness? Walk with Him there. Walk with Him where you are not someone to be honored or feared, rejected or ridiculed. Walk with Him in places where you are at the end of your strength. And then watch strength begin to rise.

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