Question: In a recent Focus on the Family issue the author of an article stated, “My mentor always told me not to pray for God to bless what I was doing, but to do what God blessed....When Samuel was looking for a king, he did not consider David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, who was with the sheep in the field. Little did Samuel know that tending sheep was one of the tools God used to prepare a king.” He used this to illustrate how a parent is to search for the hidden talents his or her child may possess. I don’t quite get the point. Can you help me?
Response: Perhaps you should direct your question to the author rather than to me. However, a comment is in order. Obviously, a parent should take care to discover and encourage each child’s talents. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the story of Samuel’s encounter with David. Samuel was not David’s father and was not seeking hidden talent in David. The article is a prime example of using Scripture to support one’s own ideas rather than letting God’s Word teach us.
Samuel didn’t even know that David existed and had not been called by Jesse to the feast, so one cannot say that he “did not consider David” and didn’t “know that tending sheep was one of the tools God used to prepare a king.” And Samuel wasn’t “looking for a king.” Rather, he had been mourning for Saul (16:1). In fact, he was afraid that Saul would kill him if he looked for another king (16:2). One errs in depicting Samuel as searching for a king and overlooking David. God had already chosen David and sent Samuel, as the prophet, to anoint him. So the lesson the author implies is based upon a false understanding of the story.
Following God’s instructions, Samuel had requested that all of Jesse’s sons be present, and because he assumed Jesse had complied, he was confused when none of them met with God’s approval, though God had told him that the next king was one of Jesse’s sons (1 Sm 16:1). Samuel was not there to evaluate anyone, or to discover their “hidden talents,” but simply to anoint the one God would designate. So again the author imposes a human interpretation upon the scripture and thus misses God’s intended meaning. We have a beautiful picture of Christ in David, both in his humility and in the misunderstanding and hatred of others toward him.
David’s Christlike humility contradicts the teaching of self-esteem promoted by Christian psychologists. David was the very opposite of the self-assured and self-assertive person that so many Christians are convinced they must become to taste success. David was willing to do the menial tasks no one else wanted and sought no approval from man but only from God, an attitude which today’s Christian psychologists would attribute to low self-esteem.
Nor was David’s self-effacing humility and rejection by his contemporaries due to any lack of talent. Here again is a beautiful picture of Jesus. Christ was “despised and rejected of men,” and it was even foretold that the Messiah would have “no beauty that we should desire him” (Is 53:2-3). Was Israel therefore to understand that the Messiah would be ugly and untalented? No! Obviously, as God incarnate, the “second man” and “last Adam” (1 Cor:15:45-47) was the ultimate of perfect manhood, a flawless specimen of what God intended man to be when He created Adam and Eve. So the saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” was proved true: men despised Jesus and saw no beauty in Him, not because of any blemish or shortcoming in Him but because their view was warped and blighted by sin.
So it was with David who pictures Christ for us. David was not the scrawny teenager depicted in many Sunday-school materials. He was as tall and muscular as Saul, who was “head and shoulders above Israel” (1 Sm 9:2, 10:23). Otherwise it would have been foolish for Saul to offer David his armor. David refused it, not because it didn’t fit him but because he had “not proved it” in battle (17:39). Though overlooked by his father and despised by his brothers and eventually rejected by Saul, David was actually the most talented and handsome man and most capable warrior in Israel: “...cunning in playing [the harp], and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely [handsome] person, and the LORD is with him” (16:18). That his brethren despised him was due to their spiritual blindness.
Though Saul loved David’s skill with a harp, when war broke out he sent David back to his father because he didn’t think David would be capable in battle. Apparently David’s humility blinded even Saul, leader of Israel’s army, to the fact that David was the most able warrior in Israel! Though he had tasted the luxuries of the king’s household, David was willing to be sent back to the sheep again and never uttered a word of complaint. And just as willingly and obediently he became his father’s messenger boy to bring cakes to his older brothers who were in the army. Their false accusations against him brought no bitter reaction (1 Sm 17:28-29).
Was David’s fearlessness and certainty that he would defeat the giant due to any sense of self-worth or self-confidence? No, his trust was in the Lord: “The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (17:37). Nor did David seek to build him- self up in men’s eyes, but his desire was to glorify God: “This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand ...that all the world may know that there is a God in Israel” (17:46).
As for looking to a mentor, Paul had his Timothy; and older men and women who are mature in the faith are told to pass on to the younger generation what they have learned from the Lord (2 Tm 2:2; Ti 2:1-6). Indeed, every Christian is commanded by Christ to “make disciples” (Mt 28:19-20). But the Focus author seems to accept what his mentor says without checking it against the Bible—and then passes on the error. Are we not to ask God to bless what we are doing? The psalms are full of such prayers. Surely if we are doing what God has led us to do, it is proper to ask for His blessing.
And as for doing what God is blessing, that is often not apparent until the deed is done. For 120 years there was no visible indication that God was blessing the building of the ark. Nor did Abraham’s servant know that God was blessing his mission until he met Rebekah and she agreed to return with him to be Isaac’s bride. The author’s mentor has led him astray with a play on words that sounds great but won’t stand up to the Bible, thus misinforming a multitude of readers.