I know I've said this before somewhere on this blog, but King David is probably my favourite Bible character.
I mean, have you read the Psalms? He makes you forget how big the time gap between you is.
And the story of his life? The ultimate action-packed rags-to-riches story.
This guy was the kind of lead male material movies and books endlessly revolve around. Warrior. King. Shepherd. Musician. Poet. And good looks to top it off. He had it all. Think the tenderness of Tom Hiddleston's smile combined with the machoism of Hugh Jackman's musculature. Intelligence. Charm. Humility. And the list goes on. No wonder "all Israel and Judah loved him."
So it's worth taking a look at the few glimpses the Bible gives us of this incredible, yes, actually glamorous leader and man of God, before he became what he was. When he was just that boy next door--albeit a good looking one.
I was listening to a reading of 1 Samuel 16 recently and verses 6-11 reminded me that the illustrious King David was actually the youngest to seven older brothers. All of whom, it appears, were strikingly handsome and impressive. Or at least Samuel felt so.
"So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, 'Surely the Lord's appointed is before Him!' But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as a man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." So Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And the Lord said, 'Neither has the Lord chosen this one.' Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, 'Neither has the Lord chosen this one.' Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, 'The Lord has not chosen these.' And Samuel said to Jesse, 'Are all the young men here?' Then he said, 'There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.' "
Seven older brothers!
Now, I've never had an older brother, but I've observed friends who do. And even if they have good relationships with their siblings, somehow a fair amount of bullying and competitiveness--good-natured or otherwise--seems to characterize what it is to have older brothers, especially a few older brothers. At least initially, the youngest one seems to exist in the shadow of the older siblings who boss them around, bully them, and lead the way. I don't want to diss older brothers, and I'm perfectly sure they can be lovely--in fact I grew up lamenting I didn't have one for that same conviction; that, ahem, they would be nicer than an older sister. But just to add a bit more colour to our portrait let's skip a step forward and take a look at the next chapter, at the brief glimpse we get at a candid moment between David and his brothers. Before anyone starts complaining that I've been unjust to older brothers, let's just focus on the older brothers in this specific context--which is all that concerns the scope of this post.
"Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger was aroused against David, and he said, 'Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.'
And David said, 'What have I done now? Is there not a cause?'
(1 Samuel 17:28-29)
I can totally imagine this, albeit with an updated vocabulary, being reproduced among 21st century sibling quarrels.
"What you doing here, twerp? Don't think you can slack just because Dad's not watching. You ought to be cleaning toilets at home. Still got the guts to sneak out here after us, hoping to join in. Who do you think you are? Go home, baby, it's your bed time."
And David: "Can you chill?"
I think it's a pretty significant indication of the dynamics between the brothers. So there's a good chance that the glamorous King David grew up being bossed within an inch of his life by seven older brothers who--if they all took after Eliab--were not only tall and handsome and impressive, but also domineering and insecure and full of themselves.
What a way to learn humility.
Not the most glamorous way to prepare to be a king, the leading warrior of the national army--
--but definitely effective.
Learning patience, humility, and self-sacrificial love is never harder--and more real--than it gets within the family. Because there's no specific end in sight. It's all about the tiny things, the microscopic, split second decisions that won't win you applause for keeping your temper or smiling though you're tired.
There is a quote by C.S. Lewis which has become mainstream, but hopefully not cliche, because it really is insightful: Hardships prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. I can't help but think that though David's boyhood might not exactly count as hardship, it was that kind of small, thorn-in-the-flesh kind of situation--not life-threatening enough to be glamorous or reflect well on you; just normal and petty enough to be drearily tiresome.
God was preparing him, teaching him lessons in humility and patience which were the foundation for his enormous prospects, through all those years when he probably thought 'ah well, just my luck.'
It's easy to glamorize David's hero qualities, his trust and reliance on God, when he was leading an army and ruling a country. We tend to forget they started with stray bears after his sheep, and bossy older brothers.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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