There is an old, old proverb which says, “What is well begun is half done.” There is a lot of truth in that thought. A most important part of the large construction project is making sure that there is a good foundation. And similarly, even without adding the miraculous grace of God, a good child is more likely to become a decent adult than a troublesome, rebellious child. Or we might alter that just a little and say that great servants of God come from people who are already good Christians. David was a great servant of God, despite his obvious flaws.
There are things about the chronology of David’s life that don’t make a lot of sense to me. For example, here we read of David’s apparent introduction to Saul. But he apparently returns to the obscurity of his father’s house, after being conscripted into the service of the king for a while. Then in the next chapter we are told about Goliath. Jesse sends his youngest son – one too young to be in the army – to carry food to his brothers. When he hears the challenge of the giant, and he says he wants to do his part for the glory of the Lord, he is introduced to Saul, who doesn’t recognize him. After the slaughter of the Philistines, Saul asks: “Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” Why didn’t he reply: “I beg your pardon your majesty, but I’m David who used to play his harp for you”? His answer almost sounds as if they were being introduced for the first time. It might be argued that David was very, very young in chapter 16, and by the next chapter he was still quite young. But he may have had a teenager’s beard, a lot more weight and bulk, and he may have been taller. But then there is the fact that he was already so well known to Saul’s council in the earlier chapter. As I say, I’m puzzled by some of these things, but ….. my confusion doesn’t disannul God’s Word. It is just more evidence of the weakness of my mind and my education so far.
I hope that we are all familiar with the general aspects of the lives of David and Saul. Saul’s character and life were already in shambles, and God had rejected him as king. But he refused to leave the throne for quite a while after his divine rejection. Samuel was sent south to the little farming community of Bethlehem and specifically to the house of Jesse. There the Lord revealed to His prophet who was to be the next king of Israel. But David was the youngest son of the family, a teenager – apparently a young teenager. Nevertheless that young man was God’s choice, and Samuel anointed him king in a private ceremony.
And then the Lord proved His sovereign control of human events. The Lord’s blessings, and the Holy Spirit’s presence left the wicked king Saul. I believe that the Lord permitted an evil spirit to begin to torment the God-forsaken man. But someone among Saul’s counselors knew about the musical abilities of the youngest son of Jesse. It is not revealed how that man knew of David, but it is hard not to believe that the Lord providentially brought that man into David’s life somehow. He suggested to Saul that soothing, spiritually charged music might calm his troubled heart. And the rest is history. God brought His elected king into the throne room of the rejected king, preparing him for his coronation.
David was only a teenager, a very young teenager! Teenager is not a disease; it’s not a plague; it’s not bump in the road to be hurdled as quickly as possible. Some people have the idea that teens are good for nothing, except for vast food consumption and vandalism. Sad to say that for millions of people between 12 and 20 that might be a true statement. But it doesn’t have to be the case. Teenagers can be among God’s most useful servants, if they are only willing. David, the teenager, had been anointed king, but Saul wasn’t thinking of that; he was unaware of that. All that Saul was interested in at this point was a responsible, respectable young man to play some music.
My premise is this: young David already possessed and displayed the characteristics of a great servant of God. Jehovah is not beyond giving us traits and qualities later in our lives, which might be useful in His service, but He often places those things in us even from our youth. Furthermore, if a young person has good parents and a good upbringing, but fails to develop the qualities which can make him a useful servant and a good citizen, then God is unlikely to bestow those gifts later. The Lord isn’t as interested in equipping us for service when we finally decide to give God a try. He wants us all to be ready and training to serve him before our call or coronation. There are seven things about young David, described here that made him well fit to serve the Lord when he eventually became king. And even though you and I may be passed our prime, these are good things to look for even in us.
First, David had the advantage of being the son of his father.
You will never find an ill-word about David’s Father, Jesse, anywhere in the pages of God’s Word. And his testimony began long before the introduction of David, or even the birth of Jesse himself. Boaz, Jesse’s grandfather is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ in his redemption of lost souls. And Jesse lived to a respectable old-age with a character that was outwardly flawless. I’m sure that he will be one of the saints who will meet us in the air at the time of our translation. We might argue that some of his sons were less than perfect, but that was not necessarily Jesse’s fault.
Children with godly, Christian parents have a head-start on life which cannot be surpassed. It’s like six men in a hurdles race, but the son of the Christian is 7 feet tall and runs like a rabbit. If the parents seek first the kingdom of God, the children are more apt to seek it as well – from their youth. And just the opposite almost guaranteed: If the parents are professing Christians but without the character and traits of the true Christian, their children are put to a decided disadvantage. In fact they may have more problems than the children of the unbelievers. If the parents pray, then there is a better likelihood the children will pray – than if the parents don’t pray. If the parents love the House of God, then the children could very well love it too. Conversely if the parents lust after gold or fame then that will probably be one of the goals of their children. Upon the shoulders of every Dad is the weight of all his children.
David had an advantage that was hard to beat – he was the son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite. “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.
Second, David was cunning.
The modern definition of “cunning” doesn’t reflect the Hebrew word of I Samuel 16:18. It doesn’t mean “artfully subtle or deceitful.” It means “knowledgeable” in the sense of skilled and well-trained.
Saul, needed help, and good music was the prescription. I think he should have had a second opinion, because it wasn’t comfort he needed; it was deliverance. The problem was an unrepentant and obstinate heart. He needed to confess his sins and humble himself before God. But what counselor is going to tell him something like that, unless he’s a prophet of God and prepared to die? Saul’s buddies were telling him to cover up his sick heart with a good dose of cosmetic surgery – music.
Anyway, David, under their orders, was invited to play calming music designed to sooth the savage breast. You can be sure that it wasn’t rap music, rock music, jazz, CCM, country or even blue grass. It was soothing classical – in the sense of the Hebrew classics. There is something in music that contains powerful medicine – both beneficial or poisonous. There is a rhythm and beat which can up lift, or toss someone over the edge. There are lyrics that can benefit the soul and glorify God, and there are the lyrics of Satan. And I hope you know that I believe there is a lot of Satan’s music in what used to be God’s churches. Not only was David an expert guitar player, or lyre player, but his music was soothing and godly.
Apparently, David’s music stood out from the crowd, because he had above average skills. There are certain things that children can learn which have a far-reaching effect in their lives. Music can be one of those things. There are patterns which can begin at one point and run through the warp and woof of our entire lives. Find a young person who is sloppy in his dressing habits, and there is a very good likelihood he will become a sloppy adult in his finances, in his speech, in his faith and his personal relationships. A young person, or old person, who is energetic in little things will usually be energetic in bigger things. And if through music, or a good hobby, someone develops an interest in getting details right, then he will be more likely to care about the details in other areas of life. A good musician learns to be good by hard work and diligence practice, and that kind of work ethic often translates into other areas of his life. Good musicians, because of what it takes to be good, are often quite good at anything they try to do. And those who are musicians, but sloppy in their technique are usually sloppy in most other things. Paul wrote to the Christian of Colosse, some of whom were slaves, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
Next we notice that David already had the testimony of being valiant – brave.
We are not told here in what way David was valiant. Had this fellow heard of David’s exploits with bears and lions while he was tending his father’s sheep? Maybe David had a tendency to stand up against bullies or against ungodly deeds of some of his neighbors. Maybe he had been involved in a daring rescue, and the word had spread. Whatever that man knew of David, we know it to be true, because of what we see in him later.
But it needs to be remembered that there are different kinds of courage – and some are not the best. There is the tiger kind of courage which will attack anything, being totally blind to any kind of danger. But then there is the bravery which comes out of having done something before. David could face Goliath because he had already beaten lions and bears.
Did you know that the original root of the word “courage” takes us back to the heart. The name “Coeur d’Alene” means something like: “Heart of an awl.” “Coeur d’Alene” and “courage” are related in the French language, and before there was French language. A heart of love will prompt bravery more quickly than most other causes. Wasn’t David’s acceptance of Goliath’s challenge related to his love of the Lord and the Lord’s people?
Oh, how God’s people need more heart for the work of the Lord today. It’s not a lack of physical courage, it’s more a lack of heart. But it is seen as a lack of courage, isn’t it? Courage to witness for Christ; to swim against the stream; to openly buck common opinion. Courage to dress like a Christian and to serve God despite the opposition of others. David had it.
Related to this, David was a warrior – a man of war.
Again, how did this helper of Saul know that David was a warrior? And in what way was he a warrior? A fighter? Did he have a sword and know how to use it? It doesn’t appear so. Was David skilled with a spear or bow? Perhaps. But when those weren’t the weapons that he chose to use against the giant, it makes me wonder. Was David’s choice of the sling, just military genius, or was that the only weapon he knew at the time? How was he a man of war at point in this life? We just don’t know.
But I do know that this term is often used to describe what the Christian ought to be. And we are exhorted NOT to pick up the weapons of the flesh. Paul exhorted Timothy to “war a GOOD warfare,” and he wasn’t referring to swords or M16s. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” “Fight the good fight of FAITH” we are told.
Listen to II Timothy 2:1-5 – “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” What does this tell us? A good soldier for God is chosen by the Lord for that task. Then he’s separated and dedicated. He’s tough; he’s self-emptied and fully trained. We can also say that God’s soldiers ultimately win, because their General never loses.
David was made of good material. He was a fighter, not a quitter. He could be expected to finish whatever he was called on to do.
Fifth, David was prudent – he was wise in his demeanor and speech.
David was talented on the harp, or psaltry, or Dobro, or something, but he was also wise for his age as well. A person may have the talent of an angel and still be a fool. He may be the greatest guitarist in the world but play in a rock band. Or he could play like a Rubinstein and speak like a mule. David was a good one to work in the palace of a maniac, because he could be trusted for discretion. That was particularly unusual for a man of his age.
Oh, how we need to learn discretion and how to control our mouths – even at a young age. “He that hath knowledge spareth his words” – Proverbs 17:27. “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” May we learn in our youth that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” God give us the grace and wisdom to say what needs to be said and not to say what isn’t needed.
Something special about David was that he was good looking.
Of course, this is the least important of all these seven things. Physical beauty has no attraction to the eye of our Heavenly God. He who is infinitely perfect and beautiful probably finds all of us ugly – if he made that a point of interest. Doesn’t it seem that John the Baptist made himself grotesque, in the way that he looked and dressed? But he was a great servant of God. Paul was apparently not a good looking man. And then there is our Saviour – “there was no beauty in him that men should desire him.”
Solomon said, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” Peter speaks about the beauty of “the hidden man of the heart.” And by the way, Peter was talking about ladies when he made that comment about the hidden man. I remember reading a sermon entitled: “Saved by my good looks.” But no one is saved by his appearance – good or bad. Was the text Isaiah 45:22? – “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” To look unto Christ is a very good look. And so is “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 12 exhorts us to be “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
David was a good-looking man, with a ruddy complexion. And from what we learn of him through the Psalms we know he looked well in addition to looking good.
One more thing of note is noted here: The Lord was with this young man.
This is the most important aspect to the character of young David. The Lord’s blessing and smile is the root and source of every other thing in this list. And then on the other hand, a man may not have any of these things, and still, with the blessing of the Lord, still be an helpful, powerful servant of the Lord.
How may we know that the Lord is with someone? This of course is referring to more than just the indwelling of the Spirit. The comment seems to be referring to something special. Perhaps it is something sensed by other spiritual people, rather than enumerated in a list. Maybe it was David’s ability to control his temper when other were losing theirs. Maybe it was a peacefulness in the midst of battle, as seen on the field with Goliath. Perhaps it was in the ability to handle touchy or difficult situations well. Of course it involves a genuine love for the things of God. Perhaps it refers to an extraordinary sacrificial spirit. Was it service without thought of compensation or reward. Perhaps it was a simple heavenly-mindedness rather than worldliness. The truth is we can’t be sure what it was that the man was thinking about in the case of David.
But I wonder if that man knew us, whether or not he might say the same sorts of things. How many of these seven things characterize us? Not too many? Is there anything that we might do about that? Certainly we could strive to pattern our lives after the godly examples that we find in the Word. Like that of young David.