The Shepherd-King



1 Samuel 16-17[i]

The 23rd Psalm starts out, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” This is an emphatic statement that captures the heart with its comfort and security.  Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  (John 10:11, ESV)[ii]  God was the Shepherd-King of Israel but they asked for a human king.
(1 Samuel 8)

When Israel wanted a king, God gave them the tallest, best-looking man in the country.  At first, he proved to be just what they wanted.  But as time went on, he proved to be unstable and paranoid.  Later, God would tell them, “In my anger I gave you kings.”  (Hosea 13:11)  We see evidence of this in what followed with Saul.

1 Samuel 16:14 tells us, "Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear."  The only treatment for Saul's malady seemed to be soothing music.  The strong man that the people hoped would be the solution to their problems proved to be their biggest problem.

In the meantime, God had a solution that no one would have imagined.  There was a shepherd watching his sheep in the hills surrounding Bethlehem.  This shepherd had caught the Lord’s eye.

Speaking of the gospel, the Apostle Paul says, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong."  (1 Corinthians 1:27, ESV)  This is a principle that we are going to observe in the story of God raising up a shepherd to be the king of his chosen people.

We see this first in His choice of David.  1 Samuel 16: 1-13 tells the story.

God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint the next king.  God told Samuel he would find the next king among the sons of Jesse.  Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, "Surely this is the Lord's anointed!"

In response, God gave Samuel an important principle.  1 Samuel 16:7 says:
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him.  The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

God had given the people what they wanted in Saul.  Now, he was choosing a king that would be a shepherd to his people Israel, and appearance wasn't the most important quality.

All seven of Jesse's sons were presented to Samuel, but the one God had chosen was not there.  So Samuel asked, "Do you have any more sons?"  God chose the one son that Jesse overlooked. The Lord doesn’t see things the way we do.  

We need the Lord's guidance in choosing friends, employees, partners and spouses.  Do we stop to ask God for his wisdom in these decisions?  “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.
We see this in people’s responses to David.  1 Samuel 17:12-37 tell this story.

The Philistines and Israelites were fighting again.  They fought throughout the life of Saul.  David's older brothers were in Saul's army and were in on the fighting.  David was at home watching the sheep.  However, his father sent him to check on his brothers in the battle.  When David showed up, he found the two armies in a stalemate.  Nobody had done anything for 40 days.

A man named Goliath was the problem.  He was huge, powerful and seemed unbeatable.  Goliath would come out every day and offer a challenge to one-on-one combat and the army of the victor would be victorious.

When David arrived at the scene, he saw the standoff.  What is more, he saw the Israelite army running in terror from this giant.  So, he started asking questions.  "What will the king do for the person who beats this loudmouth?"  "Won't somebody go out there and shut this guy up?"

Eliab, David's oldest brother, heard David asking such questions and rebuked him sharply.  He said:
“What are you doing around here anyway?  What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of?  I know about your pride and deceit.  You just want to see the battle!”  (1 Samuel 17:28)

Here we see the principal work, "God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty."  Eliab did not think David even had any business being on the battlefield let alone having his pipsqueak brother be the one to fight Goliath.  He treated David like the snot-nosed kid he thought David was.

However, this did not deter David.  He kept right on asking his questions.  He stirred up so much trouble that the king heard of it.  Saul was Israel's man of valor. (1 Samuel 15:12 he was setting up a monument to himself.)  He was their king.  He was big, handsome and had fought many battles.  As the leader of the armies, he was responsible for letting things come to a stalemate.  Fighting Goliath was his job.  He tried to pass it off with tax breaks, rewards and even marriage to his daughter to get other men to fight the battle for him.  So, you can bet that he wanted to know who was asking questions about why nobody would shut Goliath up.  When Saul saw David, David said, "Don't worry about this Philistine, I'll go fight him!"  (1 Samuel 17:32)

Saul's response demonstrates the principle, "God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty."  Saul said, “Don’t be ridiculous!  There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win!”  (1 Samuel 17:33)

David’s response gives us another important principle.  “The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”  1 Samuel 17:37

Let’s review the two principles we’ve seen so far.  If we feel overlooked or discounted by the world, we see the principle that God looks at the heart.  Make sure your heart is right with God.  Don’t live to impress men.  In answer to being overmatched and out gunned we see the principle that God is able to deliver us from our troubles.  Make sure your confidence is in God.

There is one more principle that we need to cover.

God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.
We see this in David’s battle.                                                                                   

Saul agreed to let David fight Goliath.  He also offered his armor to David.  Being the king, Saul would have had the best armor.  However, David refused the armor.  He tried it and found that he was too unfamiliar with it.  It did not fit who he was.  He was a shepherd, and he was used to the tools of a shepherd.

Having the best armor and technique is the way the world sees that things should be done.  However, the Bible says, “Do not be conformed to this world.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)  The New Living Translation says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” 

David refused the best armor, and chose his slingshot instead.  David was experienced with the use of this weapon. 

The use of a sling in battle was not an unheard of thing.  Judges 20:16 tells of soldiers that used slings when it says, “Among Benjamin's elite troops, 700 were left-handed, and each of them could sling a rock and hit a target within a hairsbreadth without missing.” 

I wonder why Goliath did not duck or catch the stone on a shield.  We cannot know, since we are not told.  However, it is interesting to notice what Goliath said to David as David approached him.  “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?”  Goliath was looking at what David most likely had in his right hand where he saw what he called a stick.  The text tells us that David rushed toward Goliath and while rushing pulled out a stone and put it in his sling.  Rushing like this would have left less time for Goliath to react.  If he used his left hand like the Benjamites did, then it leaves even less time for Goliath to react.

David went with a plan and a strategy.  The text tells us he took five stones.  Why?  We can only speculate, but it is interesting to note that according to 2 Samuel 21:16-22, Goliath had four brothers.  Five could have been a random number and David could have been prepared for a miss.  With such a small number, he certainly was not planning on taking on the whole Philistine army.  I tend to think that David had a purpose in five stones.

David was experienced, probably even expert with a sling and a stone.  He went with what he knew how to do.  He had not started out to fight Goliath.  He had not been hunting for adventure.  He found himself in a situation where someone needed to face down a giant, and he saw a way to do it.  However, David’s confidence was not in His abilities or ideas.  His confidence was in the Lord.  In 1 Samuel 17:46-47 he says:
“Today the LORD will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head.  And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!  And everyone assembled here will know that the LORD rescues his people, but not with sword and spear.  This is the LORD’s battle, and he will give you to us!” 

The principle here is found in the phrase, “This is the Lord’s battle.”

In 1 Samuel 2:9 it says, “He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness.  No one will succeed by strength alone.”

God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.

Let’s review the principles we’ve seen today.  In answer to being overlooked and discounted by the world, we see the principle that God looks at the heart.  Make sure your heart is right with God.  Don’t live to impress men.  In answer to being overmatched and out gunned we see the principle that God is able to deliver us from our troubles.  Make sure your confidence is in God.  In answer to our fights and our struggles, remember the battle is the Lord’s. 

No need to go out looking for a fight.  God is preparing you or has prepared you for the battle He wants you to fight.  Keep your heart right with Him and your confidence in Him and you will see Him use the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, like the shepherd who became a king.



[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.  Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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