The first shepherd in Scripture, Abel, was also the first murder victim (see Genesis 4). In the first five books of the Old Testament, a shepherd was a common occupation. We meet Jacob, whose flocks God greatly blessed (Gen. 31:4–9). Moses was taking care of sheep in Midian when God met him in the burning bush (Exodus 3). But the most famous biblical shepherd was King David, who watched over his family’s flocks (Ps. 78:70–72).
The skills David learned while shepherding helped him face the giant Goliath. As the youngest son, he was charged with tending the sheep (v. 15) and running errands. When he arrived at the Israelite army’s encampment with bread and cheese for his brothers, he was dismayed to hear Goliath’s scornful challenge. God’s name was being tarnished by the enemy’s boastful insults as well as the Israelites’ cowardice and lack of faith. When he inquired about the situation, though, his brother Eliab angrily mocked him as an irrelevant shepherd boy (v. 28).
Nonetheless, David volunteered to face Goliath. He told King Saul that as a shepherd he had experience protecting the flock from bears and lions (vv. 34–37). His slingshot was a serious weapon (see Judg. 20:16). The stones he picked up from the stream were not the pebbles depicted by Sunday School illustrations (v. 40). Each rock was the size of a baseball and weighed about nine ounces. Skilled users could launch them at up to 100–150 miles per hour!
David’s faith, though, was not in his weapons or his abilities but in God. “The battle is the Lord’s,” he proclaimed (vv. 45–47). Then he stunned the giant and chopped off his head with his own sword. The Israelites took courage, followed his example, and won the battle!
>> Dealing with problems and challenges in our own strength is a recipe for disaster. Like David, we should face whatever challenge each day brings with the cry, “The battle is the Lord’s.”