With Saul having shown that his patience and humility don’t match up to his natural gifts for leadership, the LORD leads Samuel in secret to a new king – not to overthrow Saul, who is still the LORD’s anointed, but to be ready to succeed him. This time he goes to someone who is not such an obvious choice. Though David is quickly shown to have musical gifts, great courage in danger and deep faith in the LORD, he is still just a boy, not ready to be king. He has much to learn – and the chance to learn comes quickly.
So far as his particular gifts go, David is introduced in two stories which read as though they come from separate sources. They can be read as consistent with one another, but it does read as though Saul is meeting David for the first time in each of the stories. To my mind that’s not a bad thing, because they show us two very different sides of David, appealing for different reasons.
In chapter 16, as Saul’s mind begins to slide into depression (and later paranoia) it is through David’s creative and musical gifts that God brings healing. As an amateur musician and lover of music, this is the side of him to which I most easily relate and from which I can draw inspiration. Music is a powerful thing when offered in God’s service, and I know that my modest gifts in that direction (and the greater gifts of some of my family) will be all the greater the more I can offer them in obedience to him. Alongside the routine of practice and rehearsal, that’s not a bad incentive or perspective from which to make the most of them.
David’s courage in chapter 17 is founded in two things – trust in the LORD who is greater than any Philistine giant and knowledge of who he is. Saul tries to send David into battle wearing Saul’s own armour (begging the question of why he’s not wearing it himself…) which is designed for a 6-foot warrior, not for a 5-foot shepherd. David goes into danger instead in his own clothes and with no sword, but the sling he knows so well. True to himself and true to the LORD, David is victorious – trusting in another’s expectations of him, or clothed in another’s armour which doesn’t fit, he would have been doomed.
Whatever giant-seeming challenges I may face, I can take them on only as myself, not an imitation of anyone else – and only with trust in the LORD who is greater than all that can ever face me.