Living Crosswise: The Life of King David
As I begin to teach a series on the life of David for the women’s Bible study at my church, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm! All of the big themes the Lord has brought to my attention over the past few years are threaded throughout:
- navigating the zigzag path of life’s relentless transition
- honesty with God: a lifestyle of worship
- transparency and vulnerability in relationships: mentoring
- learning to be still
- learning to be brave
- bringing glory to God through the creative arts.
Although Joseph may run a close second, no one in Scripture had more ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows than David. And because he was a poet and songwriter, we get an intimate view into the heart of the man whose life exemplifies the truth that while change is constant, God is constant too.
Each week during this series I’ll be sharing some insights and questions to help you join in the conversation. If you would like to become a subscriber to my blog, you will also get a free weekly Life of David study guide so you can participate in our online discussion.
The first time David’s name appears in Scripture, he is not even present in the scene. After Israel’s first King Saul’s disobedience costs him his kingdom, God sends Israel’s powerful judge and prophet Samuel on a mission to rural Bethlehem to find and anoint his successor.
Samuel has been told only that one of Jesse’s sons is God’s chosen one. Jesse presents each of his 7 of his 8 sons in turn, but Samuel, who is initially impressed with the eldest son, hears God say,
“Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Initially overlooked, the youngest of the brothers, teenage David is finally called in from the fields where he’s been herding sheep. Immediately Samuel hears God tell him David is the one he has chosen. As his rejected brothers look on, the least important brother, the baby of the family, is anointed to be their future king. When Samuel poured on the oil of anointing, the “Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on.” (1 Samuel 16:13)
And then he was sent right back to his post on the hillside with the sheep.
Although suddenly everything had changed about his future, nothing immediately changed about his circumstances. God was using the familiar patterns and routines of his every day life to prepare him for the role he would eventually take on. David was most likely a boy of about 16 when Samuel anointed him. He would be 30 before his reign over all Israel began. That is a long time to wait to fulfill your destiny.
Waiting is defined in the dictionary in a number of negative ways, such as being delayed, procrastinating, or having to hold off. However, the following definition is a more helpful way to view the time we spend in waiting on God’s timing: “remaining in readiness for some purpose.”
Although we often dread or resent it, God uses the waiting time to get us ready to be able to successfully fulfill his purpose for our lives. Waiting is the essential hinge in the transition process between letting go of the old and embracing the new.
Maybe you can relate to how David must have felt as he was sent back to the field. You may have sensed God giving you a direction and passion for a ministry, but the doors aren’t opening. You are eager to assume the role God has for you for advancing his kingdom, but your offers to step up and participate are overlooked. You may be writing beautiful worship songs you’d love to present as a gift to the church, but no one seems to be taking you up on your offer.
Or you may be in a holding pattern in the midst of a life transition, having to move out and hand over the keys to your old life before being given the address of your new one. As he did with Abraham, God is telling you to pack up your old home and move on before he gives you the road map that will get you to your new one. You may have finished your training and now you’re waiting and wondering if you’ll ever find the job that will use all those skills you’ve taken time to develop. If so, you may be asking yourself these questions:
Why is God making you wait? Why is he keeping your gifts hidden? How do you remain in readiness for what God has in store for your future?
We see that David’s humble beginnings as the least important son in a big family, serving his father in the lowly job of shepherd, actually helped him gain the qualities he would need to one day rule over all of Israel. In David’s life —as well as in our own—God takes what we might view as a liability and turns it into an asset. He develops character and characteristics in us that we’ll need to fulfill the plans he has for us. In this series of blog articles, we’ll be exploring lessons David learned in the waiting room.
Picture young David alone now and back out in the fields with his sheep, pondering what his astonishing encounter with Samuel might mean. One thing that has changed is that God’s Spirit has come upon him in power, so he sees the world in a whole, fresh new light. Psalm 8 records some of this thoughts:
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them.…You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority— the flocks and herds…O Lord, our Lord your majestic name fills the earth!”
Can’t you just hear David, the sweet-Psalmist of Israel, alone and accompanied by only his harp, singing his heart out to the Creator whose presence is so real to him?
David was famous enough as a skillful musician to be called in to minister in the court of King Saul. How did he develop that talent? I like to think that he built his skill by playing his harp for hours at a time during those lonely, boring hours out in the fields.
We may dread and fear loneliness—unless we see it as God’s gift of solitude. Solitude is required for deep reflection. It is hard to think deep thoughts when you’re constantly busy and surrounded by people clamoring for attention. The Living Crosswise practice of Inward Inventory—where you get alone with your journal, your Bible, and some penetrating personal questions yields results that will surprise you. Flannery O’Connor, considered by some to be America’s greatest Christian writer, said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Taking time to be still before the Lord will bring a rich reward as you discover truths about God and yourself that you will learn in no other way. You must meet with God alone if your goal is spiritual vitality and depth. Like David, we can use our time of waiting in obscurity to slow down enough to truly ponder the work of God in our lives as we study his Word and pray for insight and wisdom.
What skills or talents can you devote time to mastering during this waiting season of your life? What if you disciplined yourself to spending even a small portion of each day to practicing an instrument, learning to draw, writing a few lines of poetry? You can be a good steward of the insights God gives you during your daily Bible study by writing them down. Journal first, and then shape and craft your writing later. Maybe you will start your own blog! Whatever your goal, look at this time of waiting as a gift you can use to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.
Where is God asking you to wait now? What characteristics and character traits is he developing in your life as you are remaining in a state of readiness to see his plans for your life fulfilled? Your thoughts recorded here could serve as invaluable encouragement to others who are in the waiting room with you.