David, a Good Shepherd
- Imagine David, the shepherd, loving and caring for his sheep.
- Identify with the sheep in the care of a good shepherd.
- Feel sure of God's protective love and care.
- Share the message of God's care with others.
Courage is not a quality we typically encourage in young children. Rather, it's caution we like them to embrace. "Don't cross the street by yourself." "Don't talk to strangers!" Good advice, to be sure, but I wonder whether, in the end, courage is not the more important quality for life in general---and for life in God's kingdom.
The Bible calls David as a "man after [God's] own heart," (1 Samuel 13:14), and as we become familiar with David's life we come to recognize that courage must certainly have been one of the things God loved about David.
The story for today is embedded in a bigger and more famous story of David's fight against the giant Goliath. At the point where we join the story, the young shepherd David is standing before King Saul, trying to convince him that he will be able to go up against Goliath, who has the whole army of Israel cowering in their boots. Saul is more than skeptical; he's dumbfounded that this mere boy would even think of such a confrontation.
It's at this point that David tells his story: he was out tending his father's sheep when he was confronted by a lion and a bear (seemingly at two separate times). He went after the beasts with nothing more than his shepherd's staff and struck them. Then he whirled them around by the hair and killed them both.
You wonder whether young David isn't exaggerating just a tad here, as boys are likely to do to impress their elders. But he doesn't exaggerate his courage: "Your servant has killed both a lion and a bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them because he has defied the armies of the living God" (vs. 36). But it isn't courage alone---and certainly not bluster or bravado---that motivates David. "The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine," he announces (vs. 37).
It's interesting to see how courage and faith in God are intertwined in David's heart. Courage without faith seems like little more than reckless bravado, like a self-congratulating "I can do it" or "Nothing can stop me." It's faith that gives courage its punch and its power. If the Lord is on our side, we need never be truly afraid of anyone or anything.
Also for this week we have drawn from the deeply-loved and widely-known shepherd psalm, Psalm 23. At the heart of the psalm faith and courage meet in these memorable words: "Even though I walk through the darkest valley [or, as in the 1984 NIV translation, "the valley of the shadow of death"], I will fear no evil, for you are with me."
Or, as Paul put it many years later, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:34). That is the faith that underlies our every act, our every experience, our every fear, our every commitment. That is the source of the kind of courage that is truly Christian.
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