Samuel learned an important principle when God warned him not to look at outward appearance. As seven sons of Jesse paraded by at the Bethlehem sacrifice, Samuel ignored their bronzed and rippling muscles, abundant hair and beards, and their above-average heights. He had not sensed God’s special anointing on any of the seven. When sons stopped coming, Samuel knew that at least one was absent.1 God loves to astonish us by working in and through the lives of the least likely.
As the youngest son, David could not aspire to much in life. No one thought to invite him to the sacrifice; he had nothing to contribute except minding sheep. When his brothers volunteered for military service, David continued in his role as shepherd and errand boy.2
David however, showed early signs that he was more than a gofer or general dogs-body. Upon arriving at the field camp, he made a quick stop at left luggage and then fearlessly ran to the battlefront and began an excited conversation with the soldiers.3
That irritated his brother Eliab. Little brothers poking their noses into men’s business can be annoying and embarrassing. Eliab did what we all tend to do, he tried to push David back into what he assumed was his proper identity.
“What are you doing? You should be watching sheep.”
King Saul did the same: “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.” (1 Sam. 17:33)
Saul noted the most obvious thing about David—his youth—and assumed he was unqualified. Eliab had known David since he was born; he could never be more than a baby brother, could he?
There is a problem with assuming we know and understand people—friends, co-workers, other church members, even family. We only consider what we have seen of the individual within the contexts we shared with them. We rarely allow for hidden talent or for the Lord’s anointing to launch them out of established roles. And we forget how God taught and matured us.
Little David had a few surprises up his sleeve! While he had been in the hills watching sheep, David had experienced God’s protection and impartation of skills. Most important, he had learned to honor God and to trust Him deeply. His experience in relationship with God had changed him; a new identity just waited for an opportunity to burst out.
The battlefront provided that opportunity. When Eliab and Saul scoffed, David stood firm as his identity began to crystallize. He became the faith leader, dispelling fear and stepping up to fight the Philistine.4
Are you one of the forgotten ones, the overlooked ones, the dismissed ones, yet you know that God is giving you a new identity in Christ that will surprise others? Stand firm in what God is doing in you and saying about you. It is that identity that matters, not the former one.
Do you make allowances for people around you to change as God works in their lives, or to surprise you with abilities and character that you had no idea they possessed? Make room for the David’s (and the Debbie’s) to blossom at the battlefronts.