Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: David

This is the second entry in our Lenten series of posts taken from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina. Last week we introduced the concept of lectio divina and posted a study on Abraham. Be sure to check out our videos that further explain this terrific series.

This week, we are posting a study from the introduction to Binz’s volume David: Shepherd and King of Israel.

The Shepherd Who Is Also King

Lectio

Read this prophetic text as God’s Word to his people. Listen with your heart to these comforting words.

Ezekiel 34:23–24

23I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

Continue searching for the text’s meaning in these comments about Israel’s tradition.

When the people of Israel clamored to Samuel for a king to rule them, God’s prophet warned them of the cost of that decision (1 Sam. 8). A king would conscript their children into his army, extract forced labor for his many building projects, and tax their produce to support his royal court. However, the people were determined to have a king to fight their battles so that they would be “like the other nations” (1 Sam. 8:5) in security and prestige. But Israel was decidedly not like other nations. Its identity was bound up in its unique relationship with God. The Lord was Israel’s king.

God reluctantly tells Samuel to allow Israel’s request for a king, though not without expressing reservations. The monarchy in Israel is one more step in Israel’s unwillingness to accept God as the source and rule of its life. Indeed, all the warnings that Samuel uttered come to pass time and again throughout the history of Israel’s kingdom. Concentration of wealth, confiscation of land, political oppression, and, most significantly, a reduced practice of covenantal faith are all results of the abuses of state power brought about by the monarchy.

In granting Israel’s request for a king, God was already looking beyond the failed kingship of Saul to the rule of David, the shepherd-king. Through the metaphor of the shepherd, the biblical writers demonstrate David’s vocation to shepherd God’s people in imitation of God’s pastoral care. The Lord seeks out and rescues his sheep, bringing them to safe pasture in their own land. They lie down in good grazing land and feed on the rich pasture of Israel. The book of Samuel presents David’s rise to the throne, beginning with the young shepherd caring for his father’s sheep (1 Sam. 16) and continuing with God’s choice of David, the shepherd-king. God said, “It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel” (2 Sam. 5:2).

Through the centuries, the prophets reminded Israel’s kings that the “good shepherd” exists for the sake of the sheep, to guard, feed, nurture, and protect the flock. The false shepherd, by contrast, acts as though the sheep exist for the enrichment and interests of the shepherd. As the monarchy of Israel crumbled, the hopes of Israel turned to a Messiah from the line of David. The prophet Ezekiel, speaking centuries after the reign of King David, awaits a new David, the messianic king who would rise to shepherd God’s scattered flock.

The New Testament writers extend the image of the shepherd to characterize the mission of Jesus. As the climactic fulfillment of David’s dynastic line, Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the hometown of David, and sent to be the “good shepherd” of God’s people. This new David, Israel’s truest shepherd, gathers the scattered flock from throughout the earth. With compassion he seeks out the lost sheep, rejoices in his find, and brings it home. He knows the sheep by name, and they respond to his voice. His death is interpreted as a complete sacrifice of the shepherd for the sheep: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Taking the biblical literature as a whole, the image of the shepherd, beginning with King David, expresses a divine understanding of power and governance. In opposition to the empires of Egypt, Babylon, and Rome, exercising oppressive power to subjugate and control their people, the rule of God’s kingdom is one of freedom, nonviolence, justice, and peace. Certainly the historical life of David did not approach the ideal of God’s reign, but David is a channel through which God’s kingship is expressed in the world. He is fallible yet heroic, sinful yet forgiven, errant yet passionate, ambitious, and courageous. David, the shepherd-king, remains always a man after God’s own heart.

Meditatio

Consider the biblical image of shepherd leadership and its implications for your belief and discipleship.

In what ways did God prepare his people for the universal reign of Jesus Christ through the kingdom of David? How can understanding David help me to understand Jesus?

Why does God’s Word present the image of shepherding as a kind of ruling in the kingdom of God? What would this kind of governance do for our world today?

Oratio

Respond in prayer to God, who always listens to your voice.

God of Abraham, Moses, and David, you are our Lord, our Shepherd, and our King. You looked into the heart of David and chose him as Israel’s shepherd and king. Your anointed sovereign became a channel of your rule over the world and a shadow of the everlasting reign of your Messiah. Give me the heroic virtue, courage, and dedication of David. Help me to learn from his life how to rejoice, sing, pray, and trust in you. As I listen to, reflect on, and pray these texts of the Hebrew Scriptures, mold my heart to be like your own.

Continue to pray to God from your heart . . .

Contemplatio

Remain in peaceful quiet for a few minutes and be aware of God’s shepherding care for you. Feel the passionate desire of God to work deeply in your life to make you his own.

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.