black sheep and underdogs and the favor of the Father

Posted: December 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

We are gathered around elegantly decorated tables, bathed in subtle light, enjoying a beautiful meal.  Some of us (almost always: me) tend to hang back, eating quietly and desperately hoping someone else at the table will carry the conversation.

There is one such willing talker at our table, who never seems to run out of small talk items for polite conversation. Tonight, he is talking about his children – well, really only ONE of them.  He is a proud dad, sharing the grade-school exploits of one of his sons:  great grades, star status on his sports team, etc.

Someone asks about his other son.  His proud, beaming smile flattens and he waves a dismissive hand, noting that this one struggles, both with low skills and a poor attitude.  He is quick to change the subject.  My heart aches for this child – already a black sheep and he’s not even in junior high yet! – and I wonder if the child has experienced this tone, this down-turned mouth, this curt dismissal.

I wonder if Jesse was ever like that.  You know – Old Testament Jesse.  DAVID’s father.  I was re-reading recently about when Samuel blew into town to find out which of Jesse’s eight sons he would be anointing, per the God’s instructions, to be the next king.

Jesse’s first son is brought out.  This has gotta be the one, thinks Samuel.  It’s all over him. 

Nope, says the Lord.

Jesse’s second son is brought out.  Oh YEAH, this one, thinks Samuel. 

Not, says the Lord.

Jesse’s third son is brought out.  Jesse sure has remarkable sons, thinks Samuel…this one? 

Keep looking, says the Lord.

This little parade keeps happening like that, through 7 sons.  Nope, not, and keep looking, the Lord keeps urging. 

You got any more? asks Samuel.  At which point Jesse concedes that there IS one more son, out taking care of the sheep.  Send for him! says Samuel.

Thus, David is brought in from the fields to a parade his dad apparently didn’t think to even invite him to attend, much less star in.  One look, and Samuel knows he’s got his man. 

I don’t see anything in the Bible that tells about Jesse’s attitude about David.  Anything I write here is mere speculation.  But to me it seems very telling that the boy was NOT EVEN INVITED, you know?  That Samuel had to urge Jesse to send for him.  I wonder if Jesse waved a dismissive hand upon first mention.

All of that happens in 1 Samuel 16.  Part of the reason I wonder about Jesse’s attitude happens in the next chapter:  there is a valley that is kind of a battle boundary for the Israelites  and the Philistines.  Jesse’s OTHER sons are there, having been sent to serve, where a giant is daily talking trash and embarrassing the Israelites as he calls out to them to send someone to battle him. 

Where is David?  NOT on the battle front.  Despite having been anointed for future kingship just a chapter ago, he is back home taking care of the sheep with his dad.  He only ends up at the battle front when his dad sends him to deliver food to his brothers and collect news about his their well-being.  See, it looks to me like Jesse is still not all that impressed with his youngest son.  MAYBE I’m reading this wrong, and maybe one of you Bible scholars out there will set me straight.  I do understand that I am reading only with my own understanding.  But it LOOKS like maybe Jesse still doesn’t see David as one of his all-star kids, you know?

If one spends much time on Bible stories, one can’t help but notice that God gets a kick out of using underdogs for His purposes.  He is very NOT like some human fathers in that He doesn’t seem to ever roll his eyes and mutter, “Oh yeah, that one…he’s not very good at anything and he needs an attitude adjustment.” 

On behalf of black sheep and underdogs everywhere, I am grateful for this trail of stories that show things like how the kid who wasn’t even invited to the parade grew up to be called, “a man after God’s own heart.”  He could have chosen to shine the light differently, as He inspired the stories of our heritage, you know?   He could have told it from a perspective of “the best and the smartest.” 

I’m glad He decided to do it this way.


  1. Laurie says:

    never looked at the story this way….love it

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