What We Learn in the Sheepfolds

“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Fill your horn with oil, and go… to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons…’ And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these… Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.’” 1 Samuel 16:1,10-11

“And David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of [Goliath]. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine… Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’” 1 Samuel 17:32,34-37

“He chose David his servant
    and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
    to shepherd Jacob his people,
    Israel his inheritance.
 With upright heart he shepherded them
    and guided them with his skillful hand.” Psalm 78:70-72

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
    who trains my hands for war,
    and my fingers for battle
.” Psalm 144:1

The eighth and youngest son who was ‘just keeping sheep’ was the one God had chosen to be king. Ordained to train to be Israel’s shepherd by keeping his father’s sheep, David kept on in the sheepfolds until the prophet Samuel anointed him for his next role. What he learned of God’s majesty and directed stewardship, under the stars at night; of God’s keeping power and singular love, from tending wandering lambs; of courage against the enemy, from battling ferocious animals- all these were invaluable in coming years as the leader of God’s people. (Psalm 8)

With what are we presently occupied? It may be menial, unglamorous, a necessary duty that brings neither fanfare, notoriety, nor satisfaction, but it can (and should) still be done unto our Lord. Do we allow impatience or frustration to detract from lessons He has for us in the sheepfolds? Are we preoccupied with wanting a different, more ‘important’ assignment? Do we think we know better than God and force ourselves ahead of His timing? (Colossians 3:23)

What is God teaching us in our present circumstance? Steadfastness? Humility? Patient faith? His sovereignty? To listen and observe rather than initiate and conduct? To support rather than lead? How is He using current challenges to hone our coping, diplomacy, mediation, or consensus-building skills? How might God be using certain people to train us to love unselfishly, to pray for those with whom we are at odds? How might a slow season afford us time to learn of Him and train in skills we don’t have the luxury of when life is full throttle?

Good Shepherd, teach me contentment to serve wholeheartedly and faithfulness to learn in the sheepfolds where You have me. Give me zeal and joy to do all You assign, for Your glory.

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