My family has accused me of being a tiny bit obsessed with sheep. They’re tired of me yelling for John to stop the car on foreign roads so I can take a picture. But they’re cute. And I feel like sheep and the guys who hang with them have a lot to teach me.
In a community of young married couples I shepherd (unintentional pun), we’re studying David, my favorite Bible guy. He was a musician, a leader, a poet, a crappy father, a great friend, a soldier, an adulterer, and…a shepherd. In short, a renaissance man before the renaissance.
Of all his roles, the one I love the most, the one I learn from the most, is shepherd.
But as much as l like to romanticize sheep, in reality, they are stinky and dirty and being a shepherd in Bible times would be a super lonely job I’m thinking.
Kind of like being a mom of tinies at home, or one whose spouse travels a lot, or a single person in a behind-the-scenes job, or student working as a busboy, or…
When we first see David, before Samuel anoints him to be the next King of Israel, he’s tending sheep. (1 Samuel 16:11,19)
And after Samuel anoints him, before he’s installed as King (think – the time between when we elect a president and when he’s inaugurated) he goes back to tending sheep. (1 Samuel 17:15)
Tending sheep is the smelly, thankless, lonely, unseen stuff of life, but David is faithful in this role and it prepares him for what comes next.
Here’s some of the tremendous encouragement I see in the sheepy part of his story:
1. Just because you’re not visible doesn’t mean you’re not valuable. David wasn’t chosen by his family, but he was chosen by God. When Samuel came to anoint the next king, David’s dad brought out All Of The Sons except David, the youngest, who was…tending sheep. David doesn’t even come to his father’s mind as a potential candidate. But David was on God’s mind.
The Lord does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Sam. 16:7
2. You are never unseen. God has His eye on you wherever you are (Even tending sheep. Or bussing tables, or changing diapers). David writes,
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Ps. 139:1-53
3. If you experience God as trustworthy in the little, day-to-day things, you will be prepared to trust Him with the big Goliath things.
In his book, Quitter, Jon Acuff compares the Cinderella experience with that of David’s. He writes that life (or chasing a dream) is really “a process of doing small but necessary things over and over again instead of getting decked out by a fairy godmother and being escorted to prominence in a blinged-out carriage.”
When David faces Goliath he says:
“The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Sam. 17:37
4. Silence and solitude ground us in our true identity as the beloved and strengthen us to stand against adversity and the criticism of the world. Here are just a few verses about what David learned about God and himself being stuck with the with sheep.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Ps. 20:7 The Lord is MY shepherd. I lack nothing. Ps. 23:1 1 But David encouraged himself in the Lord. Samuel 30:6
So if you’re “tending sheep” today, thank God. He sees you. You’re in good company.