The Shepherd Boy
1 Samuel 16:1–13 (ESV) The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
The Lord delivered Israel out of Egyptian slavery in 1446 BC and led them into the promised land in 1406. After the deaths of Moses and Joshua, various judges exercised leadership in Israel, from about 1380 to 1050 BC. Israel, however, wanted a king; they foolishly rejected the Lord’s kingship over them (1 Samuel 8:1-9).
Saul reigned from 1050 until 1010. He wickedly disobeyed the Lord’s Word (1 Samuel 13:1-14; 15:23), and so the Lord rejected him and chose “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) to replace him. In about 1025 David was anointed to succeed Saul as king (1 Samuel 16:1-13) and took the throne in 1010.
The Lord sent the prophet Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to replace Saul (1 Samuel 16:1-13). Samuel was surprised to find that the Lord chose the youngest one, David. Samuel anointed him with oil, and the Holy Spirit was with David from that day forward. He would go from shepherding sheep to shepherding God’s people.
David’s experience as a shepherd served him well when he volunteered to take on the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). The apparent weakness of David’s sling and stones against Goliath foreshadowed the apparent weakness of Jesus’ death on the cross used to defeat our great enemy, Satan.
David the shepherd penned Psalm 23, which confesses that “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The Lord Himself promised to be the shepherd of His people (Ezekiel 34:15-16; Isaiah 40:10-11). He would mightily defeat His enemies and show compassion by recovering lost sheep. The Lord’s “servant David” was promised to be the “one shepherd” over His people (Ezekiel 34:23-24). The Lord had promised David an offspring who would rule Israel eternally—the Davidic King, or Messiah (2 Samuel 7:8-17). Jesus fulfilled the promise that the Lord Himself would shepherd Israel as well as the promise that David would shepherd Israel forever. Jesus is the One born in Bethlehem who “will shepherd My people Israel” (Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:2, 4). King Jesus received “the throne of His father David” to reign “over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:32-33). All of these passages proclaim the glorious reality that Jesus is our flesh-and-blood Good Shepherd (John 10), indeed, “the Great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20), who will take care of the Lord’s flock forever!
The shepherd’s rod and staff (Psalm 23:4) were used to discipline, defend, rescue, and lead the sheep. The rod of God’s Law disciplines and leads us, and the staff of God’s Gospel rescues us from sin, comforts our consciences, and fights off the accusations of Satan.
Psalm 23:5-6 evokes our Lord’s service to us in the church. He anoints us with the Holy Spirit in Baptism and prepares a table and overflowing cup in the Lord’s Supper. Washed and fed by the Lord, we enjoy the Lord’s goodness and mercy now and look forward to dwelling in His house forever, where, “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).
Prayer: God of majesty, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven, we give You thanks for David who, through the Psalter, gave Your people hymns to sing with joy in our worship on earth so that we may glimpse Your beauty. Bring us to the fulfillment of that hope of perfection that will be ours as we stand before Your unveiled glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.