Imagine, if you will, the high school nobody, bullied and picked on most of his adolescent life, grows up and becomes a billionaire; sky rocketing him into somebody. Imagine the underdog sports team, behind at the half, who comes back and wins the big game. Zero to hero, rags to riches, Cinderella story, misfit to king, I’m sure we’ve all heard these well worn out cliché’s at some point in our lives. Why do we love a good zero to hero, rags to riches type story? Does it give us hope? Do we say to ourselves: “they’re just like me, I can do that!?” Deep down though, I know that I really can’t win the big game, or become a billionaire success overnight. But I would like to think that I could. One can dream, right?
If you think about it though, that is what God’s story is for us. He takes a misfit, like you and I, and he turns us into kings! Not in the literal since, for most of us anyway, but in the way that we were lost and then we were found, we were weak but then made strong; we were nobody’s and through Christ we have found our identity and are now somebody’s.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2: 8-9
In other words we don’t deserve Gods love but he freely gives it to us anyway.
The story of David is a great example from the Bible, of God doing just that. David was not meant to be a king, he didn’t have royal blood, and he didn’t marry into the royal family. In fact he was nothing more than just a lowly shepherd. But, God had a plan for him and he set an appointed time for when he would go from a misfit to a king.
We all know, or should know the story of David and Goliath. We’re taught this story in Sunday school before most of us could even talk. How God took a young shepherd boy and plucked him out of obscurity to face a giant, no one could defeat, he would kill him and go on to become Israel’s second king. But what was David’s life before Goliath? What circumstances led to David facing his giant and becoming king?
After God rejected Saul as king (1st Samuel 15), God instructed Samuel to go to Bethlehem to the house of Jessie, he was to anoint one of Jessie’s sons to become the next king of Israel (1st Samuel 16:13). So Samuel goes to Jessie and invites him and his sons to consecrate themselves and come join him at a sacrifice to the LORD. The Bible says that when they arrived Samuel saw Jessie’s son, Eliab, and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stand before me” (16:6). The next scripture sums up exactly how God sees us, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the Heart” (16:7).
We should strive to be like this, looking at the inward character of someone rather than what they appear to be on the outside. How often, when we are walking down the street or stopping our car at an intersection, and we see a dirty, old, disheveled person begging for any spare change you might give them. Do we cross the street, raise our car windows, and pretend not to see them as we pass them by? We often justify it by saying to ourselves, “any money that we give is just going to go for drugs or alcohol, and I don’t want to contribute to that.” So, we move on and avoid them. But, what did Jesus teach about the poor, again? Invite them to your table, feed and clothe them, help them, and take care of them. The Bible is pretty explicit on this subject; it seems to me that there are no exceptions. I suppose the point I’m trying to make is this, it all boils down to the heart. Everything is a matter of the heart. Think of the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness and faith (Galatians 5:22), all matters of the heart. As Christians we are to bear fruit, Jesus commissioned us at the end of Mathew. “To go out to all the nations and gather disciples” (Matt. 28-19). If we don’t have love, how can we bear fruit? How can we obey Jesus’ commission to us, if our hearts are not where they should be? Jesus’ teachings were about the matters of the heart. Just read the gospels and see for yourself.
Anyway, back to David’s story. The Lord rejects Eliab, despite the fact he would have made a good looking king. Jessie then brings in his son Abinadab to pass before Samuel, but the LORD rejects him as well. Jessie brings in seven more of his sons to pass before Samuel; still the LORD does not choose any of them. I’m sure by this point both Jessie and Samuel are confused, “did not the Lord say to anoint Jessie’s son to become the next king?”
“Are these all of your sons, Jessie? Do you have another?” Samuel asked.
Jessie looks over at his inadequate sons, he had thought that any of his boys would have made a fine king and wondered why the LORD had cast them out. He looks back at Samuel and reluctantly replies, “Well, there is my youngest son, David, he is out tending to the sheep, surely you don’t need to see him?”
“Go and fetch him, we will not sit down until he is here” (16:11). Samuel demanded.
David is brought in before Samuel; this must have been a shock to David’s family. The youngest son, the shepherd; but, I don’t believe that those were the reasons why Jessie had originally excluded David from the lineup to become king. You see, David was the black sheep of the family. The shunned one. The outcast. The misfit. David didn’t belong there; he didn’t deserve to become Israel’s next king.
Psalm 69:8 David writes, “I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children.”
What terrible thing did David do to have his own family treat him like this? Simply put, he had been born. David in Psalm 51:5 says something interesting, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (KJV). I don’t believe David was referring to the “original sin” here, the sin that we are all born into, but rather a more specific sin that led to his conception. Little is said in the Bible about David’s birth and early years, but there is a story in the Midrash, the body of ancient rabbinical exegesis of the Torah. To understand David’s back story, I will reference the Midrash and we will start a couple of generations back to David’s great- grandparents, Boaz and Ruth.
The Ruth and Boaz love story is told in the book of Ruth from the Old Testament. I’m not going to go into too many details on this, if you want to know more read the book. I bring them up though, because we need to start with the fact that Ruth was a Moabite woman. It was forbidden for a Hebrew man to marry anyone from Moab, because as the Hebrews were wandering through the desert after they had left Egypt, the Moabites refused them passage through their land. The law was strict and aggressively implemented for every male, however as years past and as Moabite women converted to Judaism, the law was relaxed some what. By the time that Ruth meets Boaz, the blessing is given for them to be married. Boaz announced publicly his intentions to marry Ruth (Ruth 4:9), and he hoped that would silence any objections to the amended law. However, he never got the chance to squash any of the naysayers or gossipers, because he died after their first night of marriage, although, not before Ruth was able to conceive a child, apparently there was enough time for that. She bore a son and named him Obed, Jessie’s father.
Boaz’s sudden death caused doubt in the minds of the suspicious; they began to question whether or not the marriage was legitimate. The rumors started to go around, “maybe the marriage should have never been allowed.” Needless to say though, Obed was viewed as an illegitimate child, and would never be a true Israelite. By the time Jessie, Obed’s son, starts having sons of his own, the disgrace of Boaz’s marriage to Ruth is something of the past. It has become just a part of his family lore; however, Jessie was a student of the Torah and knew it well, he longed to restore his family’s good name. He needed a son that would not be tainted by his family’s bad blood.
I’m going to stop there for a moment, Jessie’s feelings about himself and his family is a lie straight from the Devil. Satan loves to hold over our heads our past, our weaknesses, our qualifications, and our legitimacy. He tries to make us understand just how pathetic we humans really are. We’re just not good enough. All of these lies begin to weigh us down to the point that we start believing them. Have you ever noticed that after we commit a sin, that the guilt and shame we feel afterwards just seems to bog us down? We go through a kind of haze; I believe that is where Satan’s real work begins, after we have sinned. Everything is great while we are sinning, the euphoric feeling we get, it’s fun and exciting, and we give in and just indulge in the sin. Afterwards though, that little voice in our minds starts to manipulate us, “I should’ve of done that,” the guilt starts to settle in our hearts, “Why, why did I do that? Why am I so weak?” This is where Satan goes to town on us; telling us how inadequate we are as Christians. We will never be as strong as such and such person. We will never have the faith that can move mountains. All lies! Satan strengthens the chains that he has bound us to; he tightens his grip that he has around our necks. There seems to be no way out, we lose hope and start to accept his lie as the truth.
But there is a hope, and there is a way out. We need to put our hope and trust in Jesus. He will break loose the chains and he will set us free from Satan’s stranglehold. He wipes away our past, he gives us the strength when we are weak, he qualifies the unqualified and he legitimizes the illegitimate. We are made pure and Holy, and worthy of his love. Best part is he recognizes that we are human, i.e. we will make mistakes, but God is always faithful and just and he will forgive us over and over again. Why, because he loves us and because he cares. I know that sounds cliché but we must know that we were created so that we could be loved by him. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus comes so that we may have life, and have it to the full, John 10:10.
Jessie saw his grandparent’s marriage as a sin against God and the law. The years of whispered doubt gnawed at Jessie’s psyche. Wearing him down to the point where he even questioned his own purity. If Boaz and Ruth’s marriage was illegitimate then he was illegitimate—and his marriage to Nitzevet is unlawful because the Torah forbids a Moabite man from marrying an Israelite. He remained espoused to Nitzevet but he refused to fulfill his husbandly duties to her. He still took care of her, providing financially for her and keeping up with appearances, but he separated himself from her in his heart. After several years of this separation Jessie longed to have a child again, a son that would restore his family’s good name. So he made arrangements to wed his wife’s maidservant. She was a Canaanite woman, Jessie informed his new spouse that he would free her if he bore him a son and his status as a Jew is fully restored, but if she doesn’t comply then she would remain a Canaanite maidservant.
The maidservant was loyal to her mistress, Nitzevet, so she runs to her with news of Jessie’s plan. Nitzevet feels hurt and betrayed by her husband. She gave him nine strong and healthy sons, why is he treating me this way, she thought? Together with her maidservant, they form a plan of their own. The maidservant tells Nitzevet, “Let us do to Jessie what your ancestor’s have already done. We will switch places like Rachael and Leah did, Jessie will think he is with me but really he will be with you.” Nitzevet was pleased with what her maidservant said and agreed to it that very night. That night Nitzevet went and lied down with her husband without him being aware of her and the maidservant’s deceit. She conceived a child and when she started to show three months later, her sons thought she had committed adultery. They wanted to kill their mother, according to the law, because of her sin. But Jessie showed compassion on her, he either knew of her deception, which I think is likely, or he loved her too much. He convinces his sons not to harm the mother, but rather they should treat the child as a lowly and despised servant. The child she conceived was David.
Now it was Jewish custom at that time that if you were born the youngest child, you were the favorite. The parents would coddle you, and lavish you with fine things; because you were the baby. They would be over-protective, never letting you wander too far from the home. You would not work the fields or go on any hunts, for fear of getting hurt or killed. You would pretty much stay in the home near the parents. That is until another child was born and you were no longer the youngest, then it was off to the work, providing for your family so they could lavish your little brother with gifts that you once had.
David though, was different, even though he was the youngest child; he served as the family shepherd. The job of the shepherd was menial task that the lowliest of servants took on. You worked alone guiding worthless animals across pastures and field’s day in and day out. You came home filthy and smelling of sheep dung and with the smell alone no one wanted to be around you, so the life of a shepherd was a life spent in solitude. David was supposed to be the family’s salvation. He was supposed to be the child that was going to restore the integrity of Jessie’s namesake, establish him as a full Jew. Instead, David was a disappointment to his father, Jessie was ashamed of him. He was reduced to being the family shepherd. He was the least in Jessie’s household. So, when Samuel came to Jessie looking to anoint one of his sons to be the next king, David was overlooked, he was an afterthought because of the shame that Jessie felt. David wasn’t even invited to the family sacrifice. How low could you possibly get?
David is brought to the meeting, at the reluctance of Jessie; he was only there because Samuel demanded that Jessie go fetch him. David walks in, smelling of sheep, he receives angry stares from his brothers, feels the shame from his father, and sees Samuel near the alter with a huge grin on his face. God tells Samuel that he is the one (1st Samuel 16:12). Samuel, with a horn of oil anoints David to be the next king. You could hear a pin drop in that room, the look on the brothers faces, “How can it be?” They asked. “He is just a shepherd!” Despite his brother’s objections, the spirit of the LORD fell upon David, and from that moment on he was on the road to become the next King of Israel! He went from nothing to something.
This little known story of David is such an amazing example of how God really works in our lives. Even though David lived long ago, this story is still relevant even today. There are countless testimonies I’ve heard personally in my own church that prove this to be true. How God took a desperate situation and turned it around for something greater. Where at times there seemed like there was no hope, no way out, suddenly a door is opened and God sees them through.
I mentioned in a previous post, that when I was 13 years old I felt the call of God on my life, while I attended a church camp one summer. That supernatural experience is something I will never forget, but what immediately followed, was years and years of wasted opportunity. I call this period of my life the wilderness period. There are days that I still feel like I’m wandering through the desert, but I know that I’m close to the Promised Land of where God wants me. During my “wilderness period”, I felt inadequate, not worthy of Gods love, and not educated enough to pursue a pastoral ministry. Some circumstances in my life, led me away from being able to go to college right after high school therefore not getting the credentials I would need to become a pastor. Then one day I turned 30, this hit me hard, a whole decade of my life gone, in a flash. How could I have blown by 10 years of my life and had nothing really substantial to show for it? I had dreams, I had hopes, I had my calling; what happened? I watched from the sidelines as most of my friends and family went off to pursue their dreams and do the things they were called to do. All the while I was left behind, forced to get a job in a local factory to make ends meet. I felt embarrassed by that because it was something I always told myself I never wanted to do.
I have no explanation of why God does things, or rather allows things to just happen. One could get real theological here, and try to rationalize God. But, anything we could say would be putting God in the preverbal box, so it is best to just leave it at that. My life took a direction I never thought it would go, but God was still in control. I remained a devout follower of Christ most of my life, even during the “wilderness period’’, I studied his word and sought after him for his will in my life, most of all though, I just longed to get back to that moment when I was 13, when I felt God lead me where I needed to go. I don’t regret anything I’ve done, because in hindsight I’m not sure I would be where I am at today If I had stuck to my plans. God’s plans for our live may not always align with ours, but his plan for us is for our true benefit, they give us hope and a future, they prosper us and they are not meant to give us any harm, Jeremiah 29:11.
One of the most remarkable things I take away from David’s story is this; David was the castaway, the black sheep and the rejected son. No one wanted him and no one expected anything great from him. But, God chose him! Even though, there were way more qualified men to choose from, at least by man’s standards. Still, God had a plan for David even before he was born. God set into motion Ruth and Boaz’s questionable marriage, their illegitimate offspring, and their grandson’s doubt of his heritage. Until that awesome moment when their great-grandson David is brought in form the pasture and placed before Samuel, where he anoints David to become the next king of Israel! Pretty amazing, huh?
Being the misfit is not necessarily a bad thing; being discarded can actually be the catalyst that reshapes the unwanted person to someone who will change the world. All that time that David spent alone tending his sheep; he was acquiring the skills necessary that would one day allow him to kill Goliath. He spent years fending off predators that came looking for an easy meal with one of David’s sheep. All that time alone he developed a close personal relationship with his God, learning to pray and write music (Psalms) to worship him. David spent his adolescence honing his craft that would be instrumental for him becoming a great leader. While everyone else had written him off, David was in training.
We may not like where we are currently in our lives, but look at it this way God is still in control and he is still working you through his plan. That is not to say that we can’t hinder his plan, I believe that God gives us the free will to make our own choices. If you continually seek his will for your life though, he will take all of our bad choices and turn them around for the good. There is a specific plan that is designed just for you; God has a work in you and a purpose for you. But we have to accept this plan for our own. What’s awesome though that any plans he has for us far outweighs anything that we could come up with on our own. So if you’re the misfit now, and you feel rejected inadequate, uneducated and worthless, it won’t last for long. God is shaping and preparing you for the amazing work he has in store.