You see the giant and the shepherd in the Valley of Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine.*
How many of us first heard the story of David and Goliath and imagined some massive muscle-bound giant squaring off against a scrawny little kid with a slingshot dangling limply from his fingers? A sort of pitting off between Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and that wimpy kid-version of King Arthur (“Wart”) in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. A completely mismatched battle, right? Our imagination makes the story so exciting. We love it because the underdog—which many of us have felt like at some point in our life—takes down the big bully with just a slingshot and 5 little rocks. Hoo-rah!
But have you ever seen Michelangelo’s statue of David? Wow! He is about as far from that Disney archetype of a king as one can get! That David has muscles. That shepherd David could easily wrestle a lion or a bear who was attacking one of his little lambs. That David could grab a cast sheep—one stuck on her back and unable to flip over—fling it over his shoulder and stride back to the flock to safely deposit that little one back where she belongs. That David is the true type/figure of our Good Shepherd…the Servant-Shepherd Jesus, who lay down His life for His sheep.
Isaiah 40:10-11 (MSG) paints a picture of the Servant-Shepherd so beautifully:
Look at him! God, the Master, comes in power, ready to go into action.
He is going to pay back his enemies and reward those who have loved him.
Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them, leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.
He comes in power—in power!—to gather and cherish His people. To protect, to provide, to strengthen. And He calls us, His disciples, to shepherd in the same way. To become the servants of all. Now, that’s strength. Hoo-rah!
ACTION: What image comes to mind when you read the words shepherd and servant? Something like the shuffle-footed Disney-David or more like the muscular Michelangelo’s David? How do you imagine yourself in the words, “learn to be a servant of all?” What thoughts and emotions will you bring to God today as you serve and shepherd those He brings to your care?
*Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, 2015, Back Bay Books.