There is a line in the Read and Share Bible for Children that says, “As David watched the sheep, he became close friends with God.”
This wording, although not at all a quote from the Bible, struck me profoundly, because it puts so simply what the Bible shows us about David.
He became a faithful follower of God in obscurity, long before he was chosen to be king.
You see, David was the youngest of eight sons. In importance, practically and legally, he had a very small role in his family. So much so that his father did not even call him in from the fields when the prophet Samuel asked to see his sons.
You can read this story in 1 Samuel 17. Here is a piece of it.
"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 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.”
1 Samuel 17:1, 10-13
The first two times we are introduced to David, both in the verses above and later on in this chapter, he was tending the sheep. This was his normal role. It was what he did. His job.
And it was nothing special.
In fact, it was one of the most lowly jobs he could be given.
So often the most day to day parts of our lives feel the same way: nothing special, mundane, even a waste of time or talent or opportunity.
Yet we know from scripture, that when David was anointed king he was already a skillful musician and strong warrior, all skills he developed while simply tending sheep in the desert. And we also know that David’s heart was like God’s. Surely this closeness with God was also developed during days and weeks and even years of time spent, quiet and alone and unnoticed, with his father’s sheep.
In the verses from 1 Samuel 17 that I shared above, I skipped over one important verse that shows the heart of God when He chose David to be the next king of Israel. Samuel was looking at the oldest son of Jesse and assuming that he was the one God had chosen to take over the throne from Saul. But God spoke to Samuel saying,
”...'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.’”
1 Samuel 17:7
And it is easy to assume from what we see of David’s growth and character in the Bible, that if God had never chosen him out of the the wilderness, out of his role as a shepherd, he would have continued to grow in his character and love for God all the same. David didn’t serve God or seek Him so that he would be noticed, but simply because David loved Him.
David chose to seek God and draw near to Him, not once crowds knew his name, not once he was chosen as the next king, not even while he was running for life, but in the obscure, daily life of a shepherd. A life he probably assumed would always be his.
And that relationship with God is what He was able to build on during the good times, what kept him grounded during the praise, what was his comfort and anchor during the years he was afraid for his life, what enabled him to turn to God in repentance when he sinned greatly, and what enabled him to be chosen for the role of king.
The times of public praise or great responsibility or even great trial are not the times we wait for to build a strong relationship with God. The best time to do that is now.
In the small times of life.
In the quiet times of life.
In the unknown times of life.
In the monotonous times of life.
In the normal times of life.
That simple line from a children’s bible triggered so much hope and joy and freedom in my heart.
“As David watched the sheep, he became close friends with God.”
What sheep are in your field?
What job do you get up to do daily?
What obscure or small place has God called you to work in?
Where are you every day?
Who are you with?
What is the role you have been given?
What is the most normal space of your life?
Even if that role is as humble and as out-of-the-way and as plain normal as David’s, you and I can become a friend of God in and through it. Your role, the life you live, the work you do, the family you are a part of, is the perfect place for you to grow close to God.
To get to know Him.
To serve Him.
To obey Him.
To love Him.
Most of us won’t get called "out of the field" or "away from the sheep" to become a king or even any other sort of public figure. But the prize for David was not the kingdom. It wasn’t the throne or the riches or the people knowing his name and singing his praise.
The prize was God. The prize was the intimacy he had with his Maker and the ability for his life to be used by God.
You can be sure that we serve a God great enough to use David’s life just as fully and to love him just as deeply in the wilderness as he did in the palace.
This gives me so much joy and hope. As a stay at home mom, I can become a close friend of God. I don't have to be special or chosen or important or noticed to become close to God, to know Him well.
In Jesus, we have already been made friends of God. Let’s live it. Let’s choose to live into the position we have already been given in Jesus.
"You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Let’s use the place God already has given us to become close friends of God. Let’s live in the fields of our homes and our workplaces, just as David did in the literal fields with his father’s sheep, in such a way that we to get to know God. To love Him. To be His friend.