Section 2: Ruddy? You mean a rudder?
No, this has nothing to do with steering a boat. The Bible describes David as ruddy and handsome, and ruddy just means a reddish, brownish color. What does that have to do with David being a king? More than you might think.
It could just suggest that David had a particularly bronzed skin tone. However, the stories we read about David, which occur mostly in 1st and 2nd Samuel, describe David as person whose passions sometimes get the best of him. Have you ever seen someone so emotional that their face gets red? That’s David. From excitement to anger, his emotions lie on the surface of his personality. That leads to some of the best and worst of his leadership as king.
Even so, God chose David as a king to lead God’s people from their divided, tribal loyalties toward a united nation. This wasn’t always easy; in fact, much of David’s story is one of warring factions as he tries to consolidate his power as king.
But the story begins much earlier, where God, our Good Shepherd, chooses a shepherd boy to become the ruler of all Israel.
Section 3: A Shepherd After God’s Own Heart
In 1st Samuel 16, we read the story of David’s rise to kingship. It’s pretty simple: Saul
didn’t obey God’s leadership, so God withdrew support from Saul and gave it to another. Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, followed God’s call to Jesse’s house and expected God to choose of the eldest sons to serve as king. King’s should be big and strong and experienced, right?
Instead, God passes over every son present and instead awaits the return of David, the youngest boy who serves as a shepherd for the family’s sheep. Then, Saul anoints him. While we use this word sometimes in common language, we use it as a metaphor. In ancient Israel, this meant that Samuel poured something like a gallon of oil over David’s head as a sign of God’s extravagant (and pungent) blessing on the new king.
Of course, this doesn’t lead to positive feelings between David and Saul. When David first goes to Saul’s court, it’s as a servant carrying supplies to his brothers who fought in Saul’s army against the Philistines. Yet, with God’s strength behind David, he quickly becomes invaluable, first soothing Saul’s anxiety through his musical talent, and then defeating Goliath, the Philistine’s not-so-secret weapon. Saul realizes that David’s ability is a threat to his rule, and so he quickly turns on David.
Yet, through God’s faithfulness, David eventually becomes king. You can see this in 2 Samuel 5-8. Jesse’s son, who no one expected could lead more than a few sheep, became the leader of all God’s people in Israel.
David’s ruddy nature continues to play a part in his leadership. His charisma produces a stronger allied force of Israel, but also leads him to make poor decisions, including forcing Bathsheba, the wife of his friend and loyal servant Uriah, to sleep with him. Despite David’s repentance, this leads to much grief in his own life and even more death in Israel. You’ll read more about that in the next lesson.
The point to remember is this: God doesn’t abandon this ruddy boy king, even when he fails so miserably at being the king God called him to be. Instead, God uses David and reforms his life so much that this unassuming shepherd became known as a man after God’s own heart.
Section 4: What Does This Mean?
Answer these three questions:
- Tell a story about being chosen for something special to you. How did that feel?
- How can your personality be a benefit or a problem for serving God?
- Where has God been faithful despite our failures?
David’s story provides us with a historical story of how God’s been at work through people, and even despite those people, in order to increase people’s experience of God’s love and justice. We often look at leaders who make mistakes and imagine that they’re unable to serve God’s purposes. David reveals that there are consequences to those failures, but through God’s love and commitment, Jesus works against the evil we cause in order to bring about good in the world.
David’s story also reveals how personally God engages each one of us. You may not have had physical oil dumped over your head, but in baptism, God anoints each of us with a purpose and fill us with the same Holy Spirit that caused David to dance in his underwear when he was made king (no joke; see 2nd Samuel 6). God empowers us for different vocations, which are ways to live God’s purpose in ways that bring abundant life to the world.
You may not have a ruddy nature, but each of us have personality traits that might lead us astray from God’s goodness. When David danced, his passion revealed a vibrant (even if odd) embrace of the Lord’s purpose in his life. When that passion led David to violate Bathsheba and the trust of Uriah, that passion revealed the power of sin to use his personality against God’s will in his life. Take care to know your personality well enough to use it as service to God and to bless others, and to know where the pitfalls exist so you’re better prepared than David to follow God faithfully.
Section 5: Closing Prayer
I give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have graciously protected me today. I ask you to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously to protect me tonight. Into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.
Opening and Closing Prayers from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2017 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.