A Man Agreeable to Jehovah’s Heart
WHAT comes to your mind when you think of the Bible character David? His victory over the Philistine giant Goliath? His flight in the wilderness on account of King Saul’s hostility toward him? His sin with Bath-sheba and the difficulties he suffered as a result? Or perhaps his inspired poetry preserved in the Bible book of Psalms?
David’s life was filled with privileges, triumphs, and tragedies. Yet, what attracts us to him above all else is what the prophet Samuel stated of David—he would prove to be “a man agreeable to [Jehovah’s] heart.”—1 Samuel 13:14.
Samuel’s prophecy was fulfilled when David was but a youth. Would you not like to be described as a person agreeable to Jehovah’s heart? So, what is there in David’s life, especially in his early years, that can help you to become such a person? Let us see.
Family and Occupation
Jesse, the father of David and grandson of Ruth and Boaz, was likely a devout man. When David, his seven brothers, and his two sisters were still young, Jesse instructed them in the Law of Moses. In one of his psalms, David refers to himself as the son of Jehovah’s “slave girl.” (Psalm 86:16) This has led some to conclude that David’s mother, unnamed in the Bible, also had a positive influence on his spirituality. “It was most likely from her lips,” says one scholar, “that he first heard the wondrous story of God’s former dealings with his people,” including the history of Ruth and Boaz.
When we are introduced to David, he is a young shepherd boy with the responsibility of looking after his father’s sheep. This task likely involved his spending long, lonely days and nights in the open fields. Try to imagine the scene.
David’s family lived in Bethlehem, a little town on the summit and slopes of a ridge in the hills of Judah. The stony fields around Bethlehem produced good crops of grain. Orchards, olive groves, and vineyards covered the gentler slopes and valley. In David’s day, the uncultivated uplands were likely used for pasture. Beyond lay the wilderness of Judah.
David’s occupation was not without its dangers. It was among these hills that he faced both a lion and a bear that tried to carry off sheep from the drove.* This courageous youth went after the predators, killed them, and rescued his sheep from their mouths. (1 Samuel 17:34-36) Perhaps it was in this period of his life that David developed his skill with a sling. Not far from his hometown lay the territory of Benjamin. The marksmen of that tribe could sling stones “to a hairbreadth and would not miss.” David’s aim was just as accurate.—Judges 20:14-16; 1 Samuel 17:49.
Time Well Spent
For the most part, shepherding was a tranquil and solitary occupation. But David did not allow himself to become bored. On the contrary, the peaceful stillness afforded him numerous opportunities for meditation. It seems likely that some of David’s reflections included in his psalms are traceable to his youth. Was it during moments of solitude that he pondered man’s place in the universal order and the wonders of the heavens—sun, moon, and stars, “the works of [Jehovah’s] fingers”? Was it in the fields around Bethlehem that he contemplated the productive land, the cattle and oxen, the birds and “the beasts of the open field”?—Psalm 8:3-9; 19:1-6.
No doubt David’s own experience as a shepherd made him feel all the more deeply Jehovah’s tenderness toward His faithful ones. David thus sang: “Jehovah is my Shepherd. I shall lack nothing. In grassy pastures he makes me lie down; by well-watered resting-places he conducts me. Even though I walk in the valley of deep shadow, I fear nothing bad, for you are with me; your rod and your staff are the things that comfort me.”—Psalm 23:1, 2, 4.
You might be wondering just what all of this has to do with you. The answer is that one of the reasons David enjoyed intimacy with Jehovah and could be called “a man agreeable to his heart” was that he had meditated deeply and seriously on Jehovah’s works and on his own relationship with God. Can the same be said of you?
Have you ever felt moved to praise and glorify the Creator after carefully considering some aspect of his handiwork? Did you ever feel your heart fill with love for Jehovah upon seeing his qualities as reflected in his dealings with mankind? Naturally, in order to feel any such appreciation for Jehovah, you need to dedicate time to quiet, prayerful reflection on God’s Word and on his creation. Such contemplation can help you to come to know Jehovah intimately—and thus to love him. Young and old alike can have this privilege. In all likelihood, David was close to Jehovah right from his youth. How do we know?
David Is Anointed
When King Saul proved unfit to lead God’s people, Jehovah said to the prophet Samuel: “For how long will you be mourning for Saul, while I, on the other hand, have rejected him from ruling as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I shall send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, because I have provided among his sons a king for myself.”—1 Samuel 16:1.
When God’s prophet arrived in Bethlehem, he had Jesse summon his sons. Which of them was Samuel to anoint as king? On seeing good-looking Eliab, the eldest, Samuel thought: ‘This is he.’ But Jehovah told Samuel: “Do not look at his appearance and at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For not the way man sees is the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.” In the same way, Jehovah rejected Abinadab, Shammah, and four others of their brothers. “Finally,” continues the account, “Samuel said to Jesse: ‘Are these all the boys?’ To this he said: ‘The youngest one has till now been left out, and, look! he is pasturing the sheep.’”—1 Samuel 16:7, 11.
Jesse’s answer seems to imply: ‘David can’t possibly be the one you are seeking.’ As the youngest and most insignificant of the family, David had been given the work of looking after the sheep. But he was the one God had chosen. Jehovah sees what the heart is, and evidently he saw something very precious in this youth. So when Jesse sent for David, Jehovah told Samuel: “‘Get up, anoint him, for this is he!’ Accordingly Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the spirit of Jehovah began to be operative upon David from that day forward.”—1 Samuel 16:12, 13.
Just how old David was when this happened is not stated. Some time later, however, the three oldest brothers, Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah, were serving in Saul’s army. Perhaps the other five were too young to accompany them. It is possible that none of them were yet 20 years old, the age at which men joined Israel’s army. (Numbers 1:3; 1 Samuel 17:13) In any case, David was very young when Jehovah chose him. Yet, it would seem that David was already a very spiritually-minded person. He evidently had a close relationship with Jehovah, which he developed by pondering over what he knew about God.
Young people today should be encouraged to do the same. So, parents, are you encouraging your children to meditate on spiritual matters, to appreciate God’s creation, and to study what the Bible says about the Creator? (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) And you young people, are you doing this on your own? Bible-based publications such as the Watchtower and Awake! magazines* are designed to help you.
Skilled With the Harp
Just as the text of many of David’s psalms tells us something about his days as a shepherd, so in all likelihood, does the music. Of course, none of the music that originally accompanied these sacred songs has survived till our day. We do know, though, that their composer was an excellent musician. In fact, the reason David was called away from the pastures to attend to King Saul was that he was skilled on the harp.—1 Samuel 16:18-23.*
Where and when did David develop this ability? Probably during the days that he spent out in the fields tending the sheep. And surely we need not stretch our imagination to think that even at such a young age, David was already singing heartfelt praises to his God. After all, Jehovah selected and commissioned him because of his devotion and spirituality, did He not?
What David turned out to be in later years is really another story. But the spirit that characterized him throughout his life is reflected in words that may well hark back to his early experiences in the fields around Bethlehem. Just imagine David singing to Jehovah: “I have remembered days of long ago; I have meditated on all your activity; I willingly kept myself concerned with the work of your own hands.” (Psalm 143:5) The warmth of this psalm and of many other psalms of David is an inspiration to all who desire to be agreeable to Jehovah’s heart.
The Syrian brown bear, formerly encountered in Palestine, averaged about 310 pounds (140 kg) in weight and could kill with blows from its huge paws. Lions were once plentiful in the area. Isaiah 31:4 says that even “a full number of shepherds” would not be able to chase a “maned young lion” from its prey.
Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The royal adviser who recommended David also said that he was “an intelligent speaker and a well-formed man, and Jehovah [was] with him.”—1 Samuel 16:18.