Let’s start from the beginning of David’s story (I Sam 16-24). Along comes baby David. He’s the youngest son in a big family. As he grows up he is assigned the job of shepherd. This is not a glamorous job with great implications for career advancement. Finally, something exciting happens to David’s family. The famous prophet Samuel sends a message to Jesse, David’s father, inviting him and his sons to a sacrifice in their hometown. However, David is out in the fields with the sheep and no one invites him to the gathering. The big day arrives and the reason for the sacrifice becomes apparent. Samuel is there to choose the next king of Israel. Samuel, logically, starts with the oldest son and moves down the line. Each is in turn rejected. Finally, exasperated, Samuel asks if Jesse has any more sons. Well there’s little Dave, out in the fields, but he’s not king material… Nonetheless David is called in and to the shock of his father and brothers Samuel anoints him as the next king of Israel.
David heads back to the sheep for a while, but opportunity knocks. His big brothers are in the army. Jesse sends David to bring them some food and bring news back. David shows up and encounters the giant Goliath and with God’s help defeats him. After Goliath, David rounds into form as a skilled soldier. David rises up the ranks of the army and becomes a commander. Then the mood changes. King Saul begins to be jealous of David, thinking that David must be eyeing up the throne. In fact David already knows he will be king but he is not pushing the issue. From here on Saul concocts various plans to have David killed, these plans are foiled, but finally David can remain near Saul no longer. He gets out of town.
At this point things seem to be falling apart for David. David, on a great trajectory towards the crown, is now faced with uncertainty. The future king is now a fugitive on the run. Where is God in all this? What about David’s great resume, his skills as a solider, his popularity, his musical talent, his leadership skills? David is plunged from success into mess. David is forced into the wilderness and must start all over. Unknown to him at the time, he will end up spending years in the wilderness, at various times commanding a band of misfits and hiring out his battle skills to foreign armies. All of David’s success up to this point is now being worked out in the trials of exile in the wilderness. The thing is that David’s sparkling resume wasn’t enough for the kind of king God was forming. The skills and success are now being formed through faith in the wilderness. David doesn’t lose the dream, but he must have thought about giving up. How many times must he have thought, this can’t be the plan. I must have misunderstood God. How can he allow this to happen to me?
It is often in hard situations that our character revealed, refined and reformed. In tough times we learn to trust God and his timing. In our humanity we want the instant miracle but sometimes we have to walk through the mess to find the miracle. It’s not that the miracle isn’t there, but it’s a slow-motion miracle. Indeed David experienced a slow-motion miracle during these years of hard times in the wilderness. His character was tested and refined into the character of the man God wanted to lead his people. After years in the wilderness, upon the death of King Saul, David emerged and took on the kingship (2 Sam 5). In time he became the greatest king in Israelite history.
Without the years in the wilderness do we get King David, the greatest king in Israel’s history and a man after God’s own heart? Eugene Peterson (writer of The Message) records in one of his conversations with a pastor this profound statement: “I don’t want to be so impatient with the mess that I am not around to see the miracle being formed.” If you’ve ever done a house reno, you know that it’s a mess. You have to walk through the mess of a reno to get to the finished room on the other side of the mess. In the mess and uncertainty of our world right now, what miracle is God forming? We may not know yet, but God IS working.
So today how can we respond to the mess we’re in?
- Recognize the reality of our human response to crisis. What emotions are you feeling? How are you processing these emotions?
- Talk them through, see a counsellor
- What is this crisis revealing about your character?
- Your natural tendencies are probably being revealed. Do you fight or flight?
- What can you learn about God and yourself in a crisis situation?
- Take some time to journal and reflect on your response to crisis and messes
- David walked through the wilderness and came out stronger on the other side.
- Is it possible that God is doing some great things in our world and in your life that will only be revealed later?
- In the Lord of the Rings Frodo is lamenting the fact this he must live through times of war and trouble. He says to Gandalf:
- ““I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
- So knowing that the only moment we have is the one we are living in right now, how can we make the best of it?
- Consider writing down three good things in your life right now
 Eugene Peterson, The Pastor, pg 285
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring