Quick! Visualize… a shepherd!
What do you think of first?
Perhaps you think of an idyllic shepherd scene, in which a mild-mannered youth lays down and watches soft fluffy sheep serenely eating from a verdant meadow. Perhaps… something like this?
Or perhaps, if you are a more religious type, you think of the Good Shepherd, aka Jesus Christ! And usually, the words “Good Shepherd” prompts a mild-mannered Jesus holding a lamb on His shoulders.
All of these are common images for shepherds! However, for today, I would like to point you to yet another depiction of a shepherd:
Yes, David, son of Jesse, who eventually rises up to be the King of Israel! And yet, despite his astonishing success as king, he started off as a common shepherd who was repeated ignored or told to go away. For example, when Jesse originally presented his sons to the Prophet Samuel to become anointed King of Israel, David was forgotten about. It was only until after Samuel inquired that they fetched David. Otherwise, he was very much an afterthought.
But perhaps his biggest slight was when he sought to fight Goliath.
The story is recounted in 1 Samuel 17, which you can read here. (And, trust me — the First Book of Samuel is actually a fantastic book with plenty of drama, so you should definitely read the whole thing, even if you’re a little wary about reading scripture. It’s totally worth your time!)
Goliath basically shows up on the scene and terrifies everyone — and for good reason, too! He is huge! He is a warrior! He is scary! Just read how the bible describes him…
4A champion named Goliath of Gath came out from the Philistine camp; he was six cubits and a span tall. 5He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a bronze breastplate of scale armor weighing five thousand shekels, 6bronze greaves, and had a bronze scimitar slung from his shoulders. 7The shaft of his javelin was like a weaver’s beam, and its iron head weighed six hundred shekels. His shield-bearer went ahead of him. 8He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel: “Why come out in battle formation? I am a Philistine, and you are Saul’s servants. Choose one of your men, and have him come down to me. 9If he beats me in combat and kills me, we will be your vassals; but if I beat him and kill him, you shall be our vassals and serve us.” 10The Philistine continued: “I defy the ranks of Israel today. Give me a man and let us fight together.” 11When Saul and all Israel heard this challenge of the Philistine, they were stunned and terrified.
Stunned and terrified! Even King Saul was described as stunned and terrified!
And so everybody is scared… except for David. In fact, David is that annoying kid who keeps asking uncomfortable questions. Uncomfortable questions such as why the Israellites need to fear this man when they have God on their side. A lot of people try to get him to be quiet, including his brothers. When he will not stop talking, he gets brought to the king, Saul.
When Saul sees the youth, David, he is very unimpressed. Here is Saul trying to dissuade David from fighting Goliath…
32Then David spoke to Saul: “My lord should not lose heart. Let your servant go and fight this Philistine.” 33But Saul answered David, “You cannot go up against this Philistine and fight with him, for you are only a youth, while he has been a warrior from his youth.”
And here is David’s response:
34 Then David told Saul: “Your servant used to tend his father’s sheep, and whenever a lion or bear came to carry off a sheep from the flock, 35I would chase after it, attack it, and snatch the prey from its mouth. If it attacked me, I would seize it by the throat, strike it, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both a lion and a bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be as one of them, because he has insulted the armies of the living God.”37David continued: “The same LORD who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul answered David, “Go! the LORD will be with you.”
Of course, hopefully you remember how this story ends! And, if not, here’s a quick art piece for you which sums up the story…
So, yes! David ends up defeating Goliath using his sling, which he had used on lions and bears before, and ends up saving the day and becoming a hero. Huzzah!
But, it was through his skills as a shepherd in which he was able to defeat Goliath in the first place!
And so, for today, I would like to feature this amazing picture of David, as a shepherd.
The picture shows a handsome youth with a lamb in his arms. In fact, in that way, it’s much like the stereotypical pictures of shepherds that you might think about, such as the ones that I displayed above.
But it’s different! Look at what David is kneeling on.
In fact, it’s supposed to be a lion that David killed while saving this little lamb.
And not only that, but look at the landscape. Instead of a lush meadow, it is a barren canyon. There are no sheep that surround him, which indicate that he’s been searching for this one lamb, who must have gotten lost. It appears that David dropped everything to find this young lamb and, realizing that his lamb was about to become a snack for the lion, killed the lion.
And so David is portrayed as the Good Shepherd for this fleeting moment… a title which will eventually be bestowed on one of his descendants, Jesus Christ. And, just as David will go from being a simple shepherd to becoming king, Jesus Christ will be the Good Shepherd and the King of Kings for all of eternity.
So, in this seemingly simple picture, both the Old Testament and the New Testament seem to kiss, and it is so beautiful!
So what can we say about David? Yes, he is a youth. But, there’s a lot more than just that… he is a strong and fearless young man who is not afraid to fight when the circumstances warrant it. When his flock was in trouble, he was not afraid to kill the fierce animals that threatened to kill his flocks. And, as a youth, he was not afraid to stand up and kill the man who threatened to destroy Israel.
And what what does this say about Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd Himself? For David, as a shepherd, was strong enough to destroy predators and invaders.
Jesus Christ destroyed death.
May we rejoice in this and love Him all the more!