Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, ‘Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.’ So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah for seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.
Anointed by the prophet Samuel when called from tending his father’s flocks (1 Sam 16), David proved himself as a leader in battles and in respect for God. So the elders of all the tribes at last recognised that the Lord had said David would shepherd his people and become their ruler. This Lord is God who identified himself as ‘I am’, when he called Moses from looking after flocks to bring the Israelites out of suffering in Egypt (Exodus 3:13-15).
The duplicitous Jacob in his old age identified God, who had renamed him Israel, as his shepherd throughout his life, and he believed God the Shepherd was enabling his son Joseph and his descendants to survive and be fruitful (Genesis 48:15, 49:22-25).
In the steps of leaders who first asked Samuel for a king, later generations longed for another king like David, but God had much more to give.
“A ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel” was quoted by Herod’s advisers to the Magi, combined with Micah 5:2 locating the birth in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:6). “Son of the Most High … throne of his ancestor David … of his kingdom there will be no end,” the angel said to Mary (Luke 1:32-33).
Then we hear Jesus identifying himself and his mission: “I am the good shepherd”.
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” (John 10:11-18)
Thank you, God, for shepherding us through our lives. Thank you for your great work of bringing all people into your flock. Please help us to live the life of Jesus in his mission today.
The Rev’d Bernie Collins, retired minister; member of Avenue St Andrew’s URC, Southampton; convenor of URC Mission Committee.