This refers to King David and the regard with which God held this remarkable yet often flawed and sinful man.
It prompts one to ask what was it that set this man apart from his peers and prompted God’s choosing him.
There were probably thousands of shepherds in Israel at this time, yet this young man was chosen by God to lead His people and foreshadow and be the progenitor “according to the flesh” of the true and eternal King and Messiah Jesus Christ.
I can only briefly point out some of the characteristics and traits by which David proved himself to be a man of faith and godliness and in these things worthy of our imitation. Indeed the life of David and the Psalms are worthy of prayerful study by us all.
I think some of the things which set David apart were that,
- When others saw nothing but stars David saw the one who made the stars.
- When he fed and watered his sheep , he was mindful and thankful to the one who provided him a table in the wilderness.
- When devoid of other comforts David sought and found comfort in God alone.
- He knew that the God who had delivered him in the past , would deliver him now and and in the future.
- He knew the reality of God’s love and was motivated predominantly by love for God his Saviour.
No one would say David was perfect as he was sometimes caught out in cunning shifts and tempted to sinful courses.
When we look at some of his afterlife ,we might wish that he had been left in his relative innocence with his flock and harp.
The great and noble things he did with his life were stained by the foolish, sinful and terrible things he did and the spiritual price he paid for them.
Sad to say ,how many of our lives even as professing Christians are in some degree like Davids?
We to have our highpoints and lowpoints.
We have times in our lives when our Christ-likeness and Christianity is there for all to see and yet at others we fall into sin, act unworthily and in despair, expect every day to perish “by the hands of Saul”.
How often is our obedience lacking?
How often does our faith fail us?
While it does not extenuate or excuse us, the reality is, it is God who makes the difference in our lives.
He takes people like David (and ourselves) and forms them into fit and useful instruments in His hands.
The life of David illustrates the contrasts which appear even in the godly person.
- He who fell foully into the sin which blighted his kingdom and family and that caused the name of God to be blasphemed was also he who, upon his repentance and restoration, prepared the materials for the building of the temple.
- He who pretended to be a lunatic in Gath was also he who penned many of the Psalms which believers have sung, been encouraged and treasured down through the ages.
It is God with us and our trust in Him that makes all the difference.These alone will carry us through the trials of life and make us victorious in the end.
The overall desire of David’s life was to love and obey the Lord his God.
It is such people that God chooses to use to fulfill His purposes.
As Christ made fisherman, “fishers of men”, God made a shepherd of sheep, a shepherd for Israel.
Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.2 Samuel 7:8
He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; Psalm 78:70
David the shepherd was a faint but true type of He who was the great Shepherd of the sheep.
A Shepherd’s life
Through a reading of Psalm 23 one could gain a very romantic view of the life of a shepherd in Bible times.
I know that the picture of David out with his sheep, harp in hand contemplating God’s heavens is a very pleasant one.
There is no doubt the life of a shepherd had its simple pleasures but it was not always an easy one indeed it had its perils, dangers and privations.
Jacob’s description of his past life paints the harsh side of a shepherd’s life;
“There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes.” Genesis 31: 40 N.K.J.V.
As well as being exposed to the elements, there was also the danger posed by predatory animals. Lions and bears were still present in Palestine in Bible times and when short of other food attacked flocks and people. (There were still bears in Lebanon and Syria until quite recently.)
David when setting forth his qualifications for facing the giant of Gath recounts his encounters with these two fearsome beasts.
There was also the danger from those who would steal the sheep, this would require constant alertness and vigilance as Christ alludes to in John Chapter 10.
In those days flocks were of a size so that a shepherd would know their sheep and the sheep knew the voice of their own shepherd.
Fodder and water for the sustaining of a flock was probably marginal in such a semi arid area so the shepherd would have to cover a large area to find sufficient to meet their needs; so he had to know where to find it
Isolation from family and little human contact must have been part of a shepherd’s lot, for David, it came to the stage that his own father almost forgot his existence.
Shepherd’s were often regarded with contempt and treated with disdain even his eldest brother dismissed him as good for no other purpose but tending a few sheep.
That David was enabled to flourish in such circumstances speaks clearly of his cheerful nature and strength of character, underpinned by an ability to see God and trust him in all circumstances.
David certainly developed self denial and was used to hardship but this more than balanced and enriched by the experience of the power of God in nature and his soul enraptured by God’s glorious handiwork in the starry realms.
It no doubt made his attendance of the temple and worship of the Lord more precious and joyous.
His desire for the presence of God in His chosen dwelling place is a constant theme in the Psalms and this hunger needs to be cultivated in us all.
One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.
The champion of Israel!
It is needless here to go into great detail of David’s encounter with Goliath.
It is enough to say that although Saul stood heads and shoulders above Israel in height, David stood head and shoulders above them by faith.
Of all the army of Israel only David had enough trust in the Lord to face this challenge to the people of God.
David’s sin and restoration
In later life his faith in God sustained him and by His grace restored him when he fell.
His sin of adultery with Bath Sheba and contriving the death of Uriah the Hittite left a permanent black mark over his whole life.
It was the great mercy and boundless grace of God that was the means of his restoration and renewal.
It is by this same mercy and through the cross of Christ that we, who are believers stand today as trophies of grace.
When smitten with pride, David, despite warnings, sinned by numbering of the people.
The judgment from God which resulted was a plague upon the kingdom. The people’s sufferings resulting from his sin brought the king back to his knees and his contrite prayer caused God to stay the destroying angels hand.
Grace victorious over Sin
When David looked back over his life, he could only reflect on his lowly beginnings and glorify God’s great grace in lifting him up to such an exalted position.
Though he fell into sin, God never forsook him and failed to bestow mercy upon him.
When he faced danger and death from enemies and even from his own son, God brought him through
One of David’s great character traits is his humilty and we see it in his response to God’s unfailing grace and love. David’s desire was not to exalt himself but constantly gave the glory to the one to whom glory belongs .
“16 Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far? 17“This was a small thing in Your eyes, O God; but You have spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the standard of a man of high degree, O LORD God. 18“What more can David still say to You concerning the honor bestowed on Your servant? For You know Your servant. 19“O LORD, for Your servant’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You have wrought all this greatness, to make known all these great things.1 Chronicles 17:16-19
He who had been faithful in tending a few sheep was by God’s great grace enabled and made worthy to shepherd God’s chosen people and typify Him who was the Good and Great Shepherd- King.
Standing in the Breach.
No one reviewing the history of biblical Christianity and the Church can be ignorant of the recurring theme of God’s raising up in perilous times, specific people to confront the various enemies and errors facing it.
These giants of the faith, often standing alone, confronted and spoke against the prevailing errors and sins of the times.
They sought to wake the majority out of their dozy apathy and warned them of the spiritual dangers entrenched in their midst and encroaching from all sides.
In the Old Testament God raised up and anointed prophets, priests and even kings to lead in the fight against the world, the flesh and the devil.
In the New Testament we find Apostles, Evangelists and deacons carrying on the work of building up and casting down, teaching and correcting.
They proclaimed the gospel once delivered to the saints and worked ceaselessly to hack down the ivy of false doctrine and practice by which the instruments of Satan sought to stifle the church’s purity and faithfulness to God’s truth.
They sought by word and deed to maintain the glory of God’s name and proclaim his truth to people degenerated from the purity of His worship, doctrine and holy living.
The subsequent history of the Church continues this theme and is adorned by the emerging of certain figures who have stood against and opposed the false doctrine and intrusion into the church of worldly practices, nepotism and greed.
They sought as well, to wake the Church out of its apathy and parochial attitudes and restore it to its scriptural basis, holiness and missionary zeal.
Whether they are Reformers, Bible Teachers or Men (and women) of prayer, God, in every time and in every place and in every conceivable situation that faces His people, always has an arrow in his bow.
Some are mighty preachers who tear down the strongholds of sin and error; others work with the pen or (Word processor) to proclaim the truth of God which will outlive them and will bless generations to come.
Many work quietly and unknown but still belong to this glorious band of godly men and women, who stand in the breach against Satan’s assaults and foil his attempts to insinuate himself into the church through error, laxness and false teachers?
Yes they may be in the minority sometimes, yes they are often reviled and reproached by the majority: they may be called old fashioned and behind the times: they may be thought of as un-enlightened and bigoted yet they comfort themselves with the certainty of Christ’s eternal reward for obedience and faithfulness.
We can only pray that God will raise up many more such people today.