The Shepherd-King Part 3 July 5, 2016

As we wrapped up last week’s study, the young David had just been anointed by the prophet Samuel and designated for royalty.  God had chosen him to become king of Israel.  A pretty amazing turn of events for a shepherd boy!

So what did David do?

He went back to tending his father’s sheep.  We know that because a few verses later when King Saul sent for him, we read:

So Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said: ‘Send me your son David who is with the flock.’  I Sam. 16:19

Let’s back up and see what’s going on.  Immediately after the ‘Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward,’ we are told in the next verse ‘Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.’

Because of his disobedience (read I Samuel 15), the prophet Samuel was sent to the king to rebuke him and tell him that the God of Israel had rejected him from being king over His people.  It is in this context that Samuel teaches us a lesson in what he says to Saul.

‘To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is the same as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as wickedness and idolatry.’  Stern words – words we cannot ignore.

Rebellion is the very opposite of the primary commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your resources.  You see, hate is not the opposite of love; rebellion is.  Because rebellion – in whatever form it is expressed – says my way and my will is more important than Yours, God.  When our will and our way becomes a higher priority than what God has told us clearly in His word, our love for Him at the very least is woefully imperfect and at worst, has gone cold.  And that, my friends, is a very dangerous place to be.  Stubbornness is not an acceptable character trait: it’s sin, plain and simple.  In too many arenas these days, ‘sin’ is a politically incorrect word and concept.  It’s about time we get back to the Bible and speak truth rather than political correctness.

Saul had deliberately sinned and he paid the consequences.  The Spirit of the Lord left him and he began to be tormented. Was it terrorizing nightmares, mental neurosis/phychosis or physical pain and sickness?  We don’t know.  What we do know is that Saul’s counselors did not recommend a doctor or a psychiatrist.  Instead they counseled him, ‘Command now your servants who are before you to seek a man who is a skillful player on the harp; and it shall come about when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play the harp with his hand and you will be well.’

One of the young men spoke up: ‘Behold I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech and a handsome man; and the Lord is with him.’  Upon hearing that recommendation, the king sent for David.

David came and served the king.  Saul loved him greatly, the scripture says, and sent a message to Jesse requesting that David remain in the palace to minister to the king whenever he was tormented.


Wait a minute! Hadn’t he just been anointed to BE the king? Not SERVE the king?

Indeed he had.  However, during his years of tending the sheep out there in the fields alone with God, composing beautiful songs of praise to the Holy One of Israel, David’s character was being formed and he had gained a maturity in spiritual matters beyond his years.  Given the chronology of the text, we can safely assume that David knew something we too often forget.  God’s calling on someone’s life is different from His commissioning them to carry it out.  There is always a season of preparation for the work to which He has appointed us.  We get into trouble when we know the ‘what’ but we don’t wait to hear the ‘when’.

Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness of Midian tending his father-in-law’s sheep before he ever encountered the burning bush.  Jacob endured years of labor in his father-in-law’s estate before becoming Israel, the prince of God.

So, yes, David moved into the palace shortly after being anointed. However it was not to take the throne, but to serve the unworthy one who still sat on it.  And that he did with faithfulness and humility.  Every time Saul was troubled, David picked up his harp and began to praise and worship the God of Israel.  By doing so, he created in Saul’s presence an atmosphere where the evil spirit could not function.

Are you getting this?

Praising God gets our focus off ourselves and back on Him.  In our modern “selfie” focused world, we need this constant reminder – life is not all about us.

Praising God pushes back the darkness and negativity that surrounds us.  No self-respecting evil spirit will stick around when you praise God! In the story of Jehoshaphat, God miraculously defeats the enemy, because of the people’s obedience to praise Him.

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated”  2 Chron. 20:22

Praise leaves no room for complaining. Our focus instead is re-directed to all the blessings we have received.  I wonder if this very psalm was one that David sang for Saul.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” Psa. 103:2-4

The ways of God – aren’t they just amazing?  David had learned invaluable lessons in leadership by his years tending sheep.  So had Moses. But there was something else God wanted him to learn: what a chosen leader must not do. By observing Saul’s condition after his rebellion, David had an ‘in-your-face’ demonstration of the penalty for turning away from God and seeking to do one’s own will.  The lesson would serve him well in the future.



  1. Have we learned to hear, not only WHAT God wants us to do, but WHEN?  It takes devoted time in His presence on a regular basis to fine tune our ability to ‘hear’ the gentle voice of our God.
  2. One of the greatest spiritual habits we could form is to train ourselves to give God praise and worship on a daily basis, regardless of circumstances or feelings.  He is worthy of our praise at ALL times.


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