Little Rock. Big Heart.

by Megan Johnson
(coming later this week)


Why God picks the unexpected and overlooked.

I don’t know about you, but I desperately need the reminder that God uses all of our seasons.Especially the ones that feel like they’ve been tossed into life’s dusty corner.

Perhaps you look around and feel the sting of disappointment from cancelled plans and paused dreams. It’s difficult trying to make something meaningful from this forced halt that is life right now.As humans, we deeply connect our identity and worth to what we’re doing, accomplishing, or the title we possess. Many of us know about King David in the Bible: his rise to glory, epic battles, and undeniable legacy. But what about shepherd boy David? His shepherd season was one of the most important in his life, and also the least visible.

David was the young, scrawny, little brother who was passed over time and time again. It’s hard to believe that the quiet and unseen years of David’s life are what laid the foundation for his humility, grit, and obedience, but those things were what carried him the rest of his days. David’s unseen preparation season set him up to be one of the most important characters in God’s storyline.

However, when David first appears in the text one thing is certain: he doesn’t look like a king. In fact, he is completely unthought of when the time comes for Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel.

Why is that? Why wasn’t David recognizable as the next king right off the bat? Why does God often hide or disguise those whom he calls to have great impact in the world? What does obscurity and authority have to do with one another in the kingdom of God?

Furthermore, what if David’s most important years weren’t the ones he spent on the throne? What if his most important years were those he spent in the field? David not only learned to shepherd his flock and worship his God during those years, he also developed a dependency that would ultimately carry David all of his life.

Let’s break down the scriptures and pull out some possibilities for the way that God prepares his characters for epic storylines. Maybe there is some truth to the “longer the hidden season, the more glorious the visible season.”

Breaking Down the Bible

We can gather from scripture that David was anointed and called by God, but in order to be prepped for the palace he was sent to the fields first. King David needed to develop a shepherd’s heart. If he had gone straight to the palace he wouldn’t have ruled the way God needed him to.

David’s time of preparation in the field affirms that it doesn’t matter where you come from or how long it takes to get to where God is leading, He is faithful to prepare us for the work He has for us to do. And, oddly enough, God’s preparation seasons may be the most beautiful and fruitful part of the call there is on your life.

It wasn’t just the waiting or working in the fields that developed David’s character; it was also how he spent his time in that season. We aren’t told if David had a desire to be a shepherd. We don’t know if he preferred to be in the field with the sheep or secretly resented it, but we do know he wasn’t making daisy crowns in the fields while he waited for God to crown him. Instead, he was working on his craft of music and fighting off lions who came to attack his flock—with his bare hands mind you (1 Samuel 17:34-37). His musical skill would eventually warrant him an invitation to the palace where he’d be positioned to rule, and his time spent fighting off predators would ultimately inform his battle plans for saving the kingdom of Israel.

While David waited for God’s word to come to pass, he committed himself to growing in skill and strength. How often do we treat hidden seasons with contempt, tempted to despair or sleepwalk our way through it?

Preparation wasn’t the only thing David was experiencing in that season. He was also experiencing the real-life power dynamics of being the littlest kid in a family of older, able-bodied brothers. If you’ve ever felt overlooked or passed over I don’t think there is a more encouraging passage than this one in the Bible,

"When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

David’s oldest brother, Eliab, was the sure choice. He looked like a king. Even the prophet Samuel thought so.“ But the Lord said, “Do not consider his appearance.” Whenever we see the word but in the Bible, we should grab our journals and pay attention. This word is incredibly valuable because it gently lets us know that something is out of alignment between the way we function as humans and the way God functions as holy.

In this case, God corrects our human instinct when it comes to picking those we assume are fit to lead.

Appearances aren’t bad, even the Bible says that David was “glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Samuel 16:12b). The point here is that we do well not to demonize or idolize appearances. We are told through God’s instruction to Samuel that the obvious choice in this scenario isn’t the right choice. Do not consider his appearance.

God then put Samuel through quite the narrowing process of going through seven other older brothers before he even got to David. And David wasn’t even in the room at all when he finally asked, “Are these all the sons you have?’ “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11). Perhaps David’s own father had decided that David was nothing more than a sheep tender.

Regardless of parental favor, birth order, appearance, job title, or even physical proximity to being in the right place at the right time—God pursued David. He brought him to Samuel, not first, but last. Not because he was the obvious choice, but because he was the right choice.

The Master Storyteller

It’s worth considering what would have happened if David had gotten sick of being treated like the littlest brother stuck with the sheep and went looking for something more important to do? What if he wasn’t working in the field when Samuel sent for him? If David hadn’t stayed put until God called him from his ordinary, everyday, unimpressive job would he have been anointed that day?Who knows? For those of us who are weary of feeling like we’re invisible or unimportant, may this be a reminder that God sees the heart.

God doesn’t focus on the activity you are doing, he looks at the way you depend on him no matter the field. Jesus himself admonishes the Pharisees for focusing on the appearances of things, “The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:11, CSB).

Here’s the best news for those who feel like they’ve always been picked last in the eyes of others:God doesn’t look at you the way you look at you. He doesn’t see your current position the way you do. He doesn’t see things like you do. The heart is his barometer for blessing because he chooses to raise up people he knows will partner with him, not someone who will look the part and then do their own thing when the time comes.

When it comes to furthering the storyline of God, your heart and your willingness to love God with whatever skill you have or whatever field you have been placed in is of most importance. David’s identity was built in the field with sheep, hidden from man-made praise and glory. It was because of this start that God would always have the final say in David’s heart.

We see early on in David’s story that God sees what human’s never could. We see David’s beginning as a lost cause. We see him as hardly memorable (even by his own dad), the scrap gatherer, the one forgotten in the field.

But God, through the stench of sheep and sweat, saw the very one who would carry out his ordained Kingship with an everlasting, eternal legacy. It is God who reminds Samuel (who I’m sure was wondering if God Himself was a bit misled) that the heart truly is the greatest territory of all.

Study the Story

    What human’s saw as lowly sheep babysitting, God saw as preparation for battle and kingship. In 1 Sam 17:34-37, how do you see David’s refusal to believe a human narrative serve him well?
    Read 1 Samuel 16:10-12. What strikes you most about the process of anointing David as the next king? How is it different than how humans make choices?
    Read Psalm 78:71-72. What qualities are outlined in verse 72? Why do you think God wants someone who shepherds and guides to lead his people? What does it mean to have an upright heart?

Consider the Story

  1. How does the biblical narrative describe David early on in his life? If his family were asked what his life would have become, how do you think they would have answered?
  2. What voices and narratives are you listening to when it comes to your purpose, worth and destiny?
  3. David, through his deepest and darkest failures still chose to believe God’s purpose, redemption, and identity for his life. Where has failure drowned out God’s voice and purpose over you?

Recount the Story

  1. Where in your story have you been tempted to seek out your own path to glory or recognition?
  2. How does David’s story refresh the purpose of our hidden or forgotten seasons? What are the promises we can cling to?
  3. How does God’s pursuit of David give you hope? Read Matthew18:12-14 and the parable about the lost sheep. What does this further reveal about God’s character as a pursuer of our stories?

Practice the Story

Pray specifically this week that Jesus reveal himself in the mundane. Ask Him to breathe life and truth into the deflated, tired attempts to live by the world’s standard of self-deemed glory and worth.