David, The Hidden Years

by Ray Hawkins

Family trees are increasing in popularity. There is a sense of excitement inherent in the search for long-forgotten or never-known ancestors who may be famous or rich or simply interesting. The people who make up the genealogy of another all have an input, be it ever so small, into the life of that person.

When we read the family tree of Daivid in I Chronicles 2:3-17 we may notice some good 'stock' which would flavour his personality. There was Judah, the father of the tribe, fourth son of Jacob and Leah, a wild passionate man who was given the leadership inherent in the rights of the firstborn. There was the tribal leader Nahshon who led the tribe of Judah out of Egypt under Moses (Number 1:7, 2:3). Then there was Boaz, a man who seems to have been rather reserved, financially well off, and with a generous spirit.

As with us, the majority of the ancestors were probably just unspectacular people living life as best they could in the circumstances of the time. In fact, things must have taken a downward spiral for a time for the descendants of Boaz, for when we meet Jesse his grandson we find his circumstances not very prosperous. Perhaps the incursions of the Philistines and the growing demands of having Saul as king had a detrimental impact. How modern all this sounds! And if we put our trust in riches rather than in the grace of God, we have no guarantee that someone or something will not find a way to pilfer it. The only thing that cannot be taken away from us is a personal commitment to the God who is Creator and Redeemer of those who are in covenant relationship with Him. This is one of the major features that emerges from a study of the life of David.

David's Youth

We first meet David in the account of Samuel's search for a new king to rule the tribes of Israel instead of Saul. Saul had been rejected. The leader chosen on the principles of soul nature had violated God's commands and God's principles, as we may read in chapters 13 to 15 in I Samuel. Now God would appoint a man after the spirit. As events would prove he would be far from perfect, but the longing of his heart was for the God of Israel and His Law.

The account in I Samuel 16 is tinged with implications of tensions within the family. When Samuel seeks out a contender for the throne from Jesse's children as instructed by God, David is not even considered. He is left out in the paddock. The prophet didn't even know of his existence and wondered why God did not verify His choice from the seven presented. So when he raised the matter with Jesse: "Are all the young men here?" Jesse sent for David and said: "There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep." And the older brothers went off to war, while David was a mere courier with a lunch box from home.

There is in the account a suggestion of animosity between David and his brothers; maybe the meaning of the name David has in it a clue, as David means Beloved, and this in itself could have caused friction.

David it would appear was a young man who learnt early what it meant to be alone. However, that aloneness became for him a creative rather than a destructive experience. Loneliness is a recognized killer of dreams, relationships and self-esteem, and these would have been issues faced by David. From his psalms it is discerned that he turned this isolation into a spiritual sanctuary where he could commune with God. "O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth, you who set your glory above the heavens!" (Psalm 8)

Or we may consider the reflective dignity of Psalm 23 about the Lord as the Shepherd of a shepherd. These might have been born in the spirit in those periods of aloneness. What a challenge for people such as we, when circumstances force us into an experience of isolation, where all that matters is God and His grace to us personally!

Also it was probably in times such as these when David developed his skills and prowess. In his solitude in the fields he could play his music to achieve a skill that in time was required to soothe the troubled mind of Saul. "Then one of the servants said, 'Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skilful in playing (on the harp), a mighty man of valour ... and the LORD is with him.' Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, 'Send me your son David, who is with the sheep'" (I Samuel 16:18,19).

Not only did David play the harp, but it was probably in the unseen realm that he proved God and developed a confidence in Him. This may never have been revealed but for the crisis that confronted Israel when Goliath defied the armies of Israel. When asked for his credentials to fight this insulting giant, David gave testimony about facing, fighting and overcoming a lion and a bear. "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it ... your servant has killed both the lion and bear ... the LORD, who has delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, he will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (I Samuel 17:34-37).

If David had never faced the lion and the bear and gained the victory then he would never have triumphed over Goliath. The fact that Saul and his other mighty men could not summon the courage indicates that they had no personal testimony in the hidden recesses of their lives. Here again is a Biblical principle that has implications for our day-to-day spiritual and moral development. David had found God faithful in the secret place, and when God was ready He called David to bear testimony to that fact. Until then David held the drama of God's enabling power against the lion and the bear in his heart as a special experience; there came a time when it was to become a challenge and encouragement to the army of Israel, and indeed to us all.

God is able to prepare His servants for that moment when He says that others need to know that He hasn't turned His back on His people; they then become God's illustruation of His faithfulness to His covenants and promises.