We love David because we see in him a real human being. We read his psalms and sense they come from a person not unlike ourselves with similar struggles and feelings. Yet when we study his life we find that what he endured was far more severe than what most of us will ever be forced to suffer.
Like Joseph before him, he was treated badly by those who should have loved him. He was subject to uncontrolled jealousy and betrayal by his family and friends. For David, the wrongs went on for years. First, his brothers were jealous of him, then after he had killed Goliath, King Saul became jealous as well – to such an extent that he hounded David from town to town, village to village, and even to the craggy outcrops of the barren wilderness.
However, again like Joseph before him, David knew where his future lay – not in the hands of men but in the hands of God. Yes, men may play their part but God would choose the time and place.
The life of the shepherd and farmer in today’s world is still largely a life of faith. You can make plans and try and prepare for the seasons but the weather can be totally unpredictable; every plan may fail and every contingency can be exhausted. God alone controls the elements. He causes the wind to blow and rain to fall and He can just as easily withhold rain causing droughts.
Why do so many lambs die each year in New Zealand? Why does the lambing season take place when some of the most extreme weather conditions occur?
David learnt to read the signs in the weather and sky. But more than that he learned to trust in God. David knew that God had a plan for his life and he came to understand that just as he himself cared for his sheep, God would care for him.
Yes, David would lead his sheep to fresh pastures, where they could eat and relax. He would also scout out the best watering holes so his sheep could be refreshed by drinking cool clean water in the hot dusty land. He also knew the safe tracks, which the sheep could follow from one grazing ground to the next.
He would protect them from all forms of enemy attack. He knew how to protect his sheep from rustlers, from wild animals and fatigue. He knew how to throw his rod to scare off the intruders and how to use his shepherd’s crook to rescue a sheep fallen into a ravine. He knew how to apply oil to their heads when cut or scratched. He knew how to right a cast animal.
He would ensure his sheep were safely gathered in at night and they would be able to have a good rest at the end of each day, seemingly aware that their shepherd was watching over them. David knew each sheep by bleat and by name.
Undoubtedly, whilst contemplating his sheep David would have extended the picture to God as he meditated about his life and his lifestyle. He must have realised, like many have done so after him, that he also had a Shepherd.
Yes, we are all so similar to sheep. We get ourselves into all sorts of trouble. We thoughtlessly follow those in front of us. We rarely think before we leap and need help when we are cast down.
David acknowledged that the source of all his help was God. His health and strength came from God – even the air he breathed was God given. It was God who had supplied all his needs – his daily provision, his food, his water for drinking, his vision and the courage to overcome the bear, the wolves and the lion.
David recognised God’s voice and the fact that God spoke to him with wisdom and guidance. He realised that when he came to a junction in the paths he could seek God’s choice and follow it – and would find it to be the best way.
He also knew that living honestly was always the right way. He felt that everything that had happened to him was for his best – for his growth, maturity and character-building so he could tell others the joy of having God as his Shepherd.
David decided that just as his sheep felt secure at night so at the end of his life he would feel equally secure in God’s House – in His Presence.
For David God was the be all and end all of his life – his reason for living and being. He needed no-one and nothing else so long as he had God as his eternal Shepherd.