Tending Sheep



A while back I wrote a few stories from the life of King David for children at our church.  I thought I’d post them as Stories to Live By.  Here’s the first of three.


based on 1 Samuel 16

In the days when Saul was King over Israel, God told his prophet, Samuel, to anoint a new king.  God had rejected King Saul, because he had not followed God’s commands. Although Samuel the prophet had warned Saul about the choices he was making, he knew Saul’s kingdom wouldn’t last and that God had his eye on a new man to be king.  So, when God instructed Samuel the prophet to find the new king among Jesse’s sons, he started the long journey to Bethlehem in the hill country.

Unfortunately Samuel the prophet had a reputation of being a bad-new bearer.  So when the town leaders in Bethlehem heard that he was coming to their dusty little village, they were worried.  Trembling, they greeted Samuel and said, “Why are you here?  Do you bring trouble or peace?”Tired and a little bothered that he had to come to this lowly, out-of-the-way village, Samuel assured them.  “Oh don’t worry,” he answered.  “I’ve come to worship the LORD with you.  Get cleaned up, and we’ll sacrifice this young cow to the LORD.  Be sure Jesse and his sons come to the ceremony,” he added.

So the townspeople washed themselves and put on clean clothes to be ready to worship the LORD with Samuel.  Decked out in their finest clothes, Jesse and seven of his sons also showed up for the sacrifice.  When Samuel spied Jesse’s oldest boy, a handsome, strong young man who looked like he could lead an army, he thought to himself, “This must be the one the LORD has chosen.  He looks exactly like a king.”But, knowing what was in Samuel’s heart, the LORD corrected him.  “You are only looking at his face and body to see if he fills the role as king.  You don’t see what I see.  I’m looking into his heart, and I and tell you this isn’t the one I have chosen.”

So Samuel asked Jesse to parade his sons before him, waiting for God to show him whom to anoint as king.  Jesse didn’t know God has his eye on one of his sons.  And he silently wondered what the great prophet could be looking for.  In spite of young men’s good looks and splendid clothes, as each son strutted by, Samuel simply had to say, “No, this isn’t the one.”

Now, seven smart and smiling sons is a lot to look over, and it took awhile.  When the last one failed to be God’s chosen, the exhausted prophet groaned,  “Jesse, are all your sons here?  Aren’t there any more?”

Jesse quietly conceded, “Well, there is my youngest son.  But he’s just a boy and is out tending the smelly sheep.  He isn’t cleaned up and ready to come to the sacrifice.”

“That doesn’t matter.  Quickly bring him to me,” commanded Samuel.  “We won’t begin the sacrifice until he is with us.”  With that, the weary prophet turned to rest in Jesse’s tent while Jesse fetched his youngest son from the hills.

Just as soon as David arrived before Samuel, tanned and healthy-looking from being outdoors all day, God immediately told Samuel, “Get up!  Anoint this one.  He is the one I have chosen to be king.”  So, right there in the family tent, Samuel gently poured the anointing oil on David.

In those days anointing with oil meant that a person was set apart for a special purpose from God.  None of the people there really knew what God was up to, but from that day forward, God’s Spirit was moving in David in a powerful way.

Although this seems like the beginning of David’s story, it’s really not.  Quietly and creatively, since he before he was born, God had been shaping David to be a king who would shepherd the people He loved – Israel.


You know, God has a plan for each of us like that — something he’s shaped into us quietly and creatively since before we were born.

We just have to be still enough to see it.

Huh… maybe there’s something to tending sheep.