The young shepherd slugged his way up the hill, using his staff to help him press up the grassy incline that looked over the entire valley, where he could watch his sheep with perfect clarity and see any dangers that might soon approach. As he drew near to the summit of the hilltop, he couldn’t help but receive that comforting layer of familiarity that it never failed to provide. How many times had this exact vantage point allowed him to save his entire flock, whether that be from a lion or from a bear? It was his favorite spot in the entire world; the place where he could truly be himself. Guard the sheep. Sing his songs. Think about life.
But today, his mind was not on the sheep. Today, he was distracted. Slumping down to sit against the giant tree that was mounted at the top of the hill, he let out a long, exasperated sigh. Grabbing his lyre from his side and beginning to stroke its chords in a melodic tune, he began to hum in song, letting his mind drift away to process the events that had just unfolded before his very eyes.
The world was changing all around him and he didn’t know what to think about it, how to handle it. Just two hours earlier, he had been sitting in this exact same spot, singing to his sheep and enjoying the sun as it sent its brilliant rays of heat down onto his face. He’d been out here since sunrise with plans of staying until sundown, but then his brother had arrived.
Originally, he had simply assumed that Ozem was bringing him his midday meal – with all of his other brothers being out and about the town at this time of day, this task was usually placed on Ozem’s shoulders – but it didn’t take long to deduce that this was not the case. First off, it was too early to eat another meal, and second, Ozem had a frantic air about him, running across the pasture and up the hill at a speed that looked awkward for his bulky frame. He had no meal in his hands.
Something was wrong.
The shepherd boy had jumped to his feet in but a moment, instinct causing him to draw his sling from his belt. What is it, a lion? Is father alright? Did he get hurt? What could possibly be wrong?
“Come home quickly,” Ozem had commanded him, breathing heavily as he hunched over to catch his breath. “Father has told me to fetch you.”
“You’ll see. Just go.”
“But…but the sheep.”
“I’ll watch them.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, now go. Quickly.”
The boy had taken off at great speed, bounding across the grass at a speed his brother could only have dreamed of achieving, despite his brother’s vast seniority. He rounded some clefts of rock and at last appeared at his home, where his father and the rest of his brothers – the six of them, all older and bigger and strong, just like Ozem – were gathered, eating bread and sipping wine. Oddly enough, they had all been standing up when he arrived, despite the finely-carved seats and benches placed all around them. Another man had been with them – much older, with sun-darkened skin and a long, gray beard – and as soon as the old man saw the shepherd boy approach, he grew silent. He had placed his cup of water on the ground to his side and motioned for the others to be quiet, at least for the moment.
“This is the man that God has chosen.”
The man had walked up to the boy, placing his hands onto the youth’s face as if in awe by the sight of his childlike nature. He introduced himself as Samuel – yes, the Samuel, the prophet who went throughout the land relaying the words of the Lord – and once again stated that “this boy” was “the chosen of God,” whatever that meant.
“What’s your name, boy?” the prophet asked.
The shepherd looked to his brothers, all of whom had frowns on their faces. He looked at his father, who nodded and smiled reassuringly. “David, sir,” he replied, wiping some dirt from his shoulders as he tried to make himself presentable before the man of God.
Samuel had then turned and commanded the family – all except David – to sit down. They had listened. He then turned back to the boy, who stood there quietly, unsure of how to handle the situation. “You will be the next king of this land,” the prophet told him.
“King?” David wasn’t sure he had heard the man correctly, nor did he know what to make of the…what was it, an accusation? A command? “But…but I am just a shepherd.”
“The Lord has chosen you.”
David had so many questions in his head, but he knew better than to question the will of the Lord. What of Prince Jonathan, the king’s son? he wondered to himself. Should he not succeed his own father? Or…or what of my brothers? They are stronger; they are warriors! I’m just a shepherd, a musician. Are they not more fit than I? But he held this tongue, saying nothing at all. He had bowed his head and lowered to a knee as the prophet poured the anointing oil into his hair and down his face, where it had dripped down his nose and onto the ground. Though his mind couldn’t comprehend what was happening, he had obeyed.
And then Samuel had left. That had been two hours ago, and now, as David sat there against the tree singing his music and playing his strings, he didn’t know what to think. He had never dreamed of being anything more than a shepherd, so the facts laid before him were foreign, something he had never even dreamt of. His brothers were warriors in the king’s army, yes, but he being the youngest of all eight, he was expected to stay at home and tend the flocks. That was his job and that’s all he had ever planned on doing: watching the flocks, writing his music, praising his God…for the rest of his life. That’s what he had planned. And he was content with that. Happy.
So what had God seen in him? What made him different than the others? Of all the people the Lord could have chosen, why did he pick the shepherd boy, the youngest son of his father? It didn’t make sense.
But still, David knew better than to question God. Sometimes things in life wouldn’t make sense, but the Lord would provide. He always did. If he – if David, son of Jesse – was to be the king of all the people of Israel, he would willingly do it – not by his own might, but by the Lord’s. As he strummed his lyre, David felt a smile cross his face.
Perhaps one day, his little shepherd songs would make the whole world sing.
To me, God has a brilliant sense of humor, and this story of David (based off of the Biblical text of 1 Samuel 16:1-13) only manages to highlight that brilliance. We see a boy – the youngest of eight brothers, all of whom are more fit and more of your expected “leading man” material – be chosen to serve as the second king of Israel, the chosen people of God. This little boy who had likely never dreamt of life beyond the pastures was suddenly thrust into one of the most important positions in all human history, just like that! He went from “Zero to Hero” before Hercules made it cool. And the awesome thing is that not only would he be put in this important position, but he would succeed at it! As we go throughout the Bible, we see that every future king of Israel is compared to David, the little shepherd boy from Bethlehem. Heck, David had such a close and personal relationship with the Lord that his grandson to the umpteenth power would be Jesus Christ, God in the flesh! Now if that isn’t an example to strive for, I don’t know what is.
Needless to say, I find this story extremely motivational, and for more reasons than one. First off, this story reminds us that God doesn’t look at our physical size or our good looks or our IQ's to determine the role we will play in this world that He’s provided us with. Instead, as we learn in the seventh verse of this passage in the Biblical text, “the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” As humans, we are quick to judge people based off of appearance or aptitude, but really there is no place in that if you are looking through the eyes of the Lord. While yes, we are supposed to treat our bodies like temples (1 Cor. 6:19-20), at the same time we can’t put that at the forefront of our lives and determine our worth by how we look or what we own! We need to stop seeing things through the eyes of man and instead look at things how God would see them, because that’s how true growth can begin. When we look into our hearts and see the muddled mess that we have gotten ourselves into, it all of a sudden makes sense why we are so unworthy of the gracious God we have. But at the same time, if we look through God’s eyes, we can also see the locked-up potential just waiting to be unlocked. You “can do all things through Christ who strengthens [you]” (Phil. 4:13), a statement that is true for all of us, yet often we fail to recognize this because we get so caught up in the limitations the world tries to put down on us. So, from this first aspect of motivation from the story of David, recognize this: you have something amazing inside of you just waiting to come forth. All you have to do is place these verses in your heart, accept them as truth, and then go out and find that hidden potential.
Following up on that, the second piece of motivation is found in this: God has a dream for each and every one of us. Like I said before, David had never considered the possibility of being king; why would he? He was a shepherd boy living in Bethlehem and there was already a kingly line established through the first King of Israel, Saul. The idea of being king had never been anything but a childhood fantasy, yet here David was, tending his sheep one day and BLAM! All of a sudden he’s the anointed king of Israel, next in line for the throne. While his reign wouldn’t come for many, many years after this occasion, his life would never be the same. It shows us that often we look at the big picture, while really, “the One enthroned in heaven laughs” (Psalm 2:4, written by David). God sees the dreams we have for ourselves and He knows that we have so much more potential, and He can’t wait to show that potential to us! He just chuckles when He realizes how little we know, how silly we are for not recognizing the greatness He has imbued into our very DNA. We continually seem to forget that “God created mankind in His own image” (Gen. 1:27) -- yes, the image of God Himself -- so while we most definitely are nowhere near His level of infinite, sovereign power, we are still creatures that are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, also written by David), created to perform the will of God, which can sometimes mean drastic life changes that will always be for the better (Gen. 50:20).
All of this brings me to my final point, which is perhaps my favorite of all: while the world saw nothing but a shepherd boy, God saw a king. Jesse, David’s father, hadn’t even considered to call David to them when asked to present his sons before Samuel! Samuel told him that one of the sons would be king, yet Jesse was so confident that David would not be the kingly son that he didn’t even bother to go get David until Samuel specifically asked for him. Isn’t that crazy? Even his father didn’t see the greatness within him! He had just naturally assumed that one of his other sons fit the kingly role that God was looking for. David was the shepherd. The musician. The poet. His brothers were macho warriors who fought for the country of the Lord. His father never even knew the great plan hiding within his youngest son. But God? He knew. He looked down at David and He saw “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), a man who would lead a nation back to Him despite all struggles they would face. While others saw a boy singing to his sheep, God saw a giant named Goliath falling to the ground. While others saw a boy with a sling playing around in the field, God saw nations trembling in fear of David, the man who would defend his nation by becoming not only their greatest king (under the King), but one of their best warriors as well.
So let this be a lesson, albeit a lengthy one: despite where you think your life is headed, you are far mistaken. The greatest dreams you have? They’re nothing compared to what God has planned for you. Set your heart, your mind, and your soul on Him, because He has a dream for you, a dream that was formulated since before you were even born (Jer. 1:5)! He has a dream and He has a plan. While others saw a shepherd boy, God saw a king. So just look to Him, close your eyes, and ask Him one simple question:
“God, what do you see in me?”
The answer is beyond anything you could have ever dreamed for yourself.