Humble Beginnings: David
Moses and Joshua had quiet beginnings. Elijah had awe-inspiring moments. David had a progressive and highly unexpected one.
David was the eighth and youngest son of Jesse. They lived in Bethlehem and David served his father by tending his sheep. Like Moses, David learned the skills and patience of life as a shepherd. He wasn’t valued by his family. He lived out in the field and did what he was told.
When Samuel the prophet received a word from the Lord to go and anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be king, he had Jesse and his family attend a feast. Jesse brought seven of his sons. Samuel went through each one, seeing which of them the Lord wanted him to anoint.
“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and said, “Certainly the LORD’s anointed one is here before Him.’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:6-7
When he came to the end of them all, and the Lord rejected each one, he asked Jesse if he had any other sons.
“There is still the youngest,’ he answered, ‘but right now he’s tending the sheep.’ Samuel told Jesse, ‘Send for him. We won’t sit down to eat until he gets here.’ So Jesse sent for him. He had beautiful eyes and a healthy, handsome appearance.
Then the LORD said, ‘Anoint him, for he is the one’ So Samuel took the horn of oil, anointed him in the presence of all his brothers, and the Spirit of the LORD took control of David from that day forward.” 1 Samuel 16:11-13
What a profound moment for David. He was anointed to be the next king of Israel. The second king they had ever had. He wasn’t from the bloodline of Saul. He wasn’t rich in class or societal status. And he was the youngest son of a large family. Everything in society and cultural standards would have been against David being king. But the Lord chose him.
After such a profound moment, he returned to being a shepherd.
You would feel like he should have been taken as king right then and there. You’d think that he would start learning all the government protocols of what it would take to lead a country. You’d think he might even follow the prophet around to learn the ways of Yahweh’s leadership. Instead, he returned to the sheep like nothing happen.
But something incredible happened from that moment. “The Spirit of the LORD took control of David from that day forward” 1 Samuel 16:13. I’d be so curious to know what the Lord taught him in the fields while David was shepherding the sheep. Did the Lord explain to him the mirror image of what a shepherd and a king were like? Did He share with him the complexities of what he did with Moses and how it would be similar with David? Did David get anxious and stir-crazy sitting around waiting for his calling to begin?
David then received an opportunity to enter the palace and advance toward his calling to be king. But it wouldn’t be as you’d suspect. He wasn’t recruited for any governmental position. He was recruited as a musician. On top of being a shepherd, David was known for being a skilled lyre player. He was recruited to come before the king whenever an evil spirit tormented king Saul. David would go back and forth between shepherding his dad’s flocks, and playing the lyre for the king. But while sitting in the palace playing for Saul, his ear was inclined to hear orders being given by the king and government official business. He started to see what the royal life was like from the inside, in an inconspicuous position; Like being a fly on the wall.
A quick moment approached for David to shine. An almost ten-foot giant stood between Israel and the Philistines in battle, yelling threats at the Israelites for 40 whole days! No one acted on it as they were frozen in fear. Then this young ruddy, handsome shepherd boy showed up. Yet again, his brothers were annoyed with him. Eliab, who Samuel originally thought might be the Lord’s choice as king, “became angry with him. ‘Why did you come down here?’ he asked. ‘Who did you leave those few sheep with in the wilderness? I know your arrogance and evil heart – you came down to see the battle” 1 Samuel 17:28
Perhaps jealousy and envy broke out among his brothers after his anointing. He wasn’t cherished in his family any longer. He just spent his time alone with the sheep in the wilderness. But, as David spoke with his brothers and the other Israelite soldiers on the battlefront, evidence was revealed of the Lord’s working in David’s heart. He looked at the giant holding back the Israelite army from claiming victory and said,
“Just who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’
… ‘The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of the Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:26b, 37
David had been in the service of the king playing the lyre for a while. Yet even after his victory over Goliath, Saul asked his commander of his army,
“Whose son is this youth, Abner?’
‘My king, as surely as you live, I don’t know’ Abner replied.
The king said, ‘Find out whose son this young man is!’
When David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine’s head still in his hand. Saul said to him, ‘Whose son are you, young man?
‘The son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem,’ David answered.” 1 Samuel 17:55-58
It was at that point that David’s name and status became known to Saul. David became a commander of a thousand men and led Saul’s army into many battles. But Saul’s envy burned so greatly against David that he made it his pursuit for the next seven to ten or so years to kill David.
Just when it looked like David was advancing in rank to take over the position as king, he was out running for his life. The Israelites loved him. Saul’s family and servants loved him. But Saul was so bitter that the Spirit of the Lord was in David and no longer Saul that he made it his life’s mission to take David down.
It would have been so easy for David to lose heart and doubt God’s promise to make him king. Instead of running to that promise, he was forced to run away. In man’s understanding, time would have been wasted with David living in the wilderness and running from Saul for decades. But the Lord was working the entire time. He was equipping David to trust and rely on the Lord’s directions rather than an earthly evil king. He didn’t want David tainted by how Saul had run the country. He needed David to lead it from a Godly influence.
Those decades in the wilderness were training for an incredible kingship for David. The time would come for him to take the throne and serve the Lord from that position. In the moments of David’s humble beginnings, he wrote countless truths that were recorded in the canon of Scripture. None of David’s beginnings were wasted. They were in fact the very moments that made David the king he was.
The Lord may have given you a promise of something He is going to do in your life. There may have been moments that looked like you were on your way to it, when something happened that took you completely off course, or so you thought. The Lord’s ways are not your own. Don’t lose sight of His promises. The Lord will lead you to that promise. It just might not look in the way you would expect. Know that none of the time you are spending in the wilderness is wasted. His profound work is taking place and your breakthrough will come. Continue to praise Him through the mundane and trust that His promises will come true.