Story Four

THE SHEPHERD BOY OF BETHLEHEM
WHEN Săḿ u-el told Sa̤ul that the Lord would take away the kingdom from him, he did not mean that Sa̤ul should lose the kingdom at once. He was no longer God's king; and as soon as the right man in God's sight should be found, and should be trained for his duty as king, then God would take away Sa̤ul's power, and would give it to the man whom God had chosen. But it was many years before all this came to pass.
Săḿ u-el, who had helped in choosing Sa̤ul as king, still loved him, and he felt very sorry to find Sa̤ul disobeying God's commands. He wept much, and mourned for Sa̤ul. But the Lord said to Săḿ u-el:
"Do not weep and mourn any longer over Sa̤ul, for I have refused him as king. Fill the horn with oil, and go to Bĕth=lĕ-hem in Jŭ́ dah. There find a man named Jĕś se, for I have chosen a king among his sons.”
But Săḿ u-el knew that Sa̤ul would be very angry, if he should learn that Săḿ u-el had named any other man as king in his place. He said to the Lord, "How can I go? If Sa̤ul hears of it, he will kill me.”
Then the Lord said to Săḿ u-el, "Take a young cow with you; and tell the people that you have come to make an offering to the Lord. And call Jĕś se and his sons to the sacrifice. I will tell you what to do; and you shall anoint the one whom I name to you.”
Săḿ u-el went over the mountains southward from Rā́ mah to Bĕth́ =lĕ˗hĕm, about ten miles, leading a cow. The rulers of the town were alarmed at his coming, for they feared that he had come to judge the people for some evil-doing. But Săḿ u-el said, "I have come in peace to make an offering and to hold a feast to the Lord. Make yourselves ready and come to the sacrifice.”
And he invited Jĕś se and his sons to the service. When they had made themselves ready they came before Săḿ u-el. He looked at the sons of Jĕś se very closely. The oldest was named Ē̇-lī́ ab; and he was so tall and noble-looking that Săḿ u-el thought: "Surely this young man must be the one whom God has chosen." But the Lord said to Săḿ u-el:
"Do not look on his face, nor on the height of his body; for I have not chosen him. Man judges by the outward looks, but God looks at the heart.”
Then Jĕś se's second son, named Shăḿ mah, passed by. And the Lord said, "I have not chosen this one." Seven young men came, and Săḿ u-el said:
"None of these is the man whom God has chosen. Are these all your children?”
"There is one more," said Jĕś se. "The youngest of all. He is a boy in the field caring for the sheep.”
And Săḿ u-el said:
"Send for him; for we will not sit down until he comes." So after a time the youngest son was brought in. His name was Dā́ vid, a word that means "darling," and he was a beautiful boy, perhaps fifteen years old, with fresh cheeks and bright eyes.
As soon as the young Dā́ vid came, the Lord said to Săḿ u-el:
"Arise; anoint him, for this is the one whom I have chosen.”
Then Săḿ u-el poured oil on Dā́ vid's head, in the presence of all his brothers. But no one knew at that time the anointing to mean that Dā́ vid was to be the king. Perhaps he thought that Dā́ vid was chosen to be a prophet like Sāḿ u-el.
From that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Dā́ vid; and he began to show signs of coming greatness. He went back to his sheep on the hillsides around Bĕth=lĕ-hĕm, but God was with him. Dā́ vid grew up strong and brave; not afraid of the wild beasts which prowled around and tried to carry away his sheep. More than once he fought with lions and bears, and killed them, when they seized the lambs of his flock. And Dā́ vid, alone all day, practiced throwing stones in a sling, until he could strike exactly the place for which he aimed. When he swung his sling, he knew that the stone would go to the very spot at which he was throwing it.
And, young as he was, Dā́ vid thought of God, and prayed to God. And God talked with Dā́ vid, and showed to Dā́ vid his will. And Dā́ vid was more than a shepherd and a fighter of wild beasts. He played upon the harp, and made music, and sang songs about the goodness of God to his people.
One of these songs of Dā́ vid we have all heard, and perhaps know so well that we can repeat it. It is called "The Shepherd Psalm," and begins with the words:
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul;
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil; for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Some think that Dā́ vid made this Psalm, while he was himself a shepherd, tending his flock. But it seems rather like the thoughts of a man than of a boy; and it is more likely that long after those days, when Dā́ vid was a king, and remembered his youth, and his flock in the fields, that he saw how God had led him, just as he had led his sheep; and then he wrote this Psalm.
But while the Spirit of God came to Dā́ vid among his sheep, that Spirit left King Sa̤ul, because he no longer obeyed God's words. Then Sa̤ul became very unhappy, and gloomy in his feelings. There were times when he seemed to lose his mind, and a madness would come upon him; and at almost all times Sa̤ul was sad and full of trouble, because he was no more at peace with God.
The servants around Sa̤ul noticed that when someone played on the harp and sang, Sa̤ul's gloom and trouble passed away, and he became cheerful. At one time Sa̤ul said:
"Find someone who can play well, and bring him to me. Let me listen to music; for it drives away my sadness.”
One of the young men said:
"I have seen a young man, a son of Jesse in Bĕth=lĕ-hĕm, who can play well. He is handsome in his looks, and agreeable in talking. Then I have heard that he is a brave young man, who can fight as well as he can play; and the Lord is with him.”
Then Sa̤ul sent a message to Jesse, Dā́ vid's father. He said: "Send me your son Dā́ vid, who is with the sheep. Let him come and play before me.”
Then Dā́ vid came to Sa̤ul, bringing with him a present for the king from Jĕś se. When Sa̤ul saw him, he loved him, as did everybody who saw the young Dā́ vid. And Dā̤vid played on the harp, and sang before Sa̤ul. And Dā́ vid's music cheered Sa̤ul's heart, and drove away his sad feelings.
Sa̤ul liked Dā́ vid so well that he made him his armor-bearer; and Dā́ vid carried the shield and spear and sword for Sa̤ul when the king was before his army. But Sa̤ul did not know that Dá̤ vid had been anointed by Săḿ u-el. If he had known it, he would have been very jealous of Dā́ vid.
After a time Sa̤ul seemed well, and Dā́ vid left him, to be a shepherd once more at Bĕth́=lĕ-hĕm.