The curtain opens on many characters in the Bible with God anointing them with a specific mission although there is hardly any mention of why they were chosen in the first place. Why did he select Abraham or David or Gideon or several others? Sometimes the inference about God’s choice can be drawn after reading the subsequent pages of the Bible story.
For our study let us revisit the story of the renowned King David of Israel. Even though the nation of Israel was governed by numerous rulers, no other king in Israel’s history holds as much honor and esteem as King David, the second king of Israel. Despite the grave mistakes he committed in his later years, God never took his kingship away as he had done with Saul. Moreover, God established a covenant with David confirming his everlasting dynasty (2 Samuel 7:8-19).
Many centuries before Christ’s birth, the prophet Isaiah had prophesied about the spiritual connection between the coming Messiah and King David – His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and forevermore (Isaiah 9:7). In fact, there are many references to Jesus and David made by the New Testament writers. Luke mentions that Jesus was born of David’s lineage (chapter 1:27) in the city of David (chapter 2:11). The angel Gabriel foretold Mary that Jesus would receive the throne of His ancestor David (chapter 1:33). Jesus is addressed by many Davidic titles- son of David by Matthew (chapter 1:1), a descendant of David by Paul (2 Timothy 2:8), and the root of David in Revelations 5:5.
So, who was this king and why was he chosen?
Certainly not at random!! The story of David in the Bible begins with God commanding the prophet Samuel to visit Bethlehem and anoint David as the next king. Saul’s act of disobedience had displeased God and it would eventually cost the first king of Israel his throne. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ (1 Samuel 16:1).
When Prophet Samuel visited Jesse’s house, he was certain it would be one of the athletic, handsome, warrior sons of Jesse who would replace Saul as king. David’s father too presented his seven older sons before the prophet. It was only when Samuel prodded- Are all your sons here? (1 Samuel 16:11) that Jesse admitted that the youngest one was away in the field taking care of the sheep. David seemed insignificant even in His father’s eyes!!
Yet there was something that God noticed in young David’s heart which pleased Him as he told Samuel-for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God overlooked David’s tender age and instead focused on his heart and knew that this young, unskilled boy had the potential and the requisite qualities to be the future king of Israel.
So, what did God see in David’s heart?
1. Faithfulness to his vocation
God saw a person faithful to the duty assigned to him. David was entrusted with the simple task of caring for the sheep which he fulfilled to the hilt.
What about us? How do we discharge our daily duties? Do we carry on with our tasks grudgingly or simply hurry off with our assignments for the sake of finishing them off? Will it matter to us if the end result is shoddy? Is it out of fear of those in authority that we complete our responsibilities or are we truly at peace with our God-given occupation, knowing that our heavenly master is watching us all the time? Colossians 3:23-24 speaks of the work attitude that Christians must cultivate-Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. God expects faithfulness from us. Jesus emphasized it through his teachings. “The one who would be faithful in little would also be faithful in much” he said (Luke 16:10). David was faithful with his simple assignment as a keeper of sheep; God elevated him to be the ruler of Israel!
2. Love for his sheep
God noticed a person who cared for his flock even at the cost of his life. When faced with dangers, young David could have justifiably run away rather than risking his dear life for some ordinary, insignificant sheep. Instead, we hear him tell Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it(1 Samuel 17:34-35)
What about us? Do we genuinely care about the sheep, the vulnerable people God has placed in our lives? Are we like good shepherds to them, protecting them, guiding them, lending a listening ear when they need us or helping them in their spiritual growth? Or do we find pleasure in controlling their lives, dominating and manipulating them? If we have difficulty tending to the sheep in our homes, why would God entrust us with responsibilities in his kingdom, for does not love (charity) begin at home?
3. Love and Zeal for God
God noticed sincerity and love in David’s devotion to him. Even as a youth, David loved and honored God with all his heart. On the battlefield, when Goliath brazenly blasphemed God, David could not bear to hear the giant speak ill of God; he asked indignantly “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26. None of the mighty trained warriors had the nerve to silence Goliath, yet David in spite of his youth and lack of military training, readily stood up for God and took the giant Goliath head on. 1 Samuel 17:36-Your servant has killed both lions and bears; this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, David told Saul.
David was zealous for God. He cared greatly for God’s glory and honor than his dear life. How zealous are we for God and for His kingdom? Are we ready to defend our faith in case the occasion so demands? Have we placed God at the center of our lives? As Christian, does our love and zeal manifest in our daily life? Let us take St. Paul’s advice to heart-Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Romans 12:11)
4. Faith and trust in God
God also noticed a person who trusted him. David was confident that God would deliver him from the giant Goliath’s hand just as he had rescued him from fierce animals on several occasions in the past. David confidently told Saul, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37)
How do we react when we encounter Goliaths unexpectedly in our lives- financial crisis, relationship problems, or health complications? When our faith is tested, do we despair, or do we display trust as David did; that with the Lord’s help we will conquer and defeat these giants plaguing us? As children of our heavenly Father, may we also cultivate an attitude like David who said, “I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalms 16:8)
5. A peaceable and forgiving spirit
God noticed David’s peaceable spirit. Being the youngest in the family, David must have often been pushed around, scolded, and bullied as can be seen from the following incident- Once, when David was sent to the battlefield by his father to minister to his brothers who were part of Saul’s army, he received a severe admonition from his brother. His eldest brother Eliab heard him talking to the men, and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David. He said, ‘Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart; for you have come down just to see the battle.’ (1 Samuel 17:28) Even before ascertaining the facts, Eliab, his brother spoke bluntly to Him. Yet David did not take offense and replied peacefully to the rather rude remark of his brother. Nor did it deter him from the task that lay ahead. David tried to constantly put insults past him and maintain his composure.
What would be our response if we were to face a similar situation as David did? Do we believe hitting back verbally at people who insult us or speak to us disrespectfully is the ideal solution? In our service for building God’s kingdom, differences, and misunderstandings will surface from time to time. Are we willing to bury past hurts and focus on the task of working in God’s vineyard? God wants peacemakers like David and not space makers!!
My dear brothers and sisters, God did not reveal to Prophet Samuel what he had seen in David’s heart or why he had chosen him instead of Saul or David’s older brothers? Through the subsequent events recorded in scriptures, specifically on the day he fought Goliath; David’s exemplary character came to the forefront. But God had been observing these beautiful traits, no doubt insignificant in the eyes of the worldly-wise; and he chose him to rule over his people although David possessed no athletic or combative skills, a prerequisite for a person destined to inherit a royal throne!!
God is constantly on the lookout for people with the right heart attitude as David. He is not interested in the Abhinadabs, Shammahs, or Elias’s (David’s brothers) of this world to build his kingdom. Do you consider yourself least in your household or ignored or taken for granted? Do you consider yourself a failure? Is life treating you unfairly? Continue doing what is right in God’s eyes. Try to find out what pleases God (Ephesians 5:10) and seek to do God’s will in the daily situations of our life as David did. If you think that the tasks you handle are too mundane for God to even notice, remember that David was merely ‘keeping his sheep’ the day God anointed him through Prophet Samuel.
The Bible is replete with stories of ordinary men and women whom God picked up from obscurity and used them to play a key role in salvation history. Mary, the humble virgin of Nazareth was chosen to be the mother of his son, God used Gideon, the least significant member of the weakest clan in Israel, to deliver his people from the oppression of the Midianites. God chose Joseph, who suffered unjustly at the hands of his brothers, to become the prime minister of Egypt, through Esther an orphaned Jewish maiden, a nation was saved from annihilation by their enemies.
Those whom God has chosen; he also equips!! In His time, God will bring you to the place he has in mind just as he eventually brought David to the throne of Israel.
My dear brothers and sisters, God is looking at the condition of our hearts. May he be well pleased with what he sees!!