The King We Need

By: Tracy Cooney
Samuel filled his horn with oil and made his way to Bethlehem, with thoughts swirling in his head. It wasn’t long ago he had anointed Israel’s first king. Had it really gone wrong this quickly? At first, Saul fit the bill perfectly—head and shoulders above his peers, the son of a wealthy man, a poster boy for the Israelite army. But God did not let His people get far into a monarchy before He showed them how foolish their request had been. Like a mirror held up to the nation, Saul showed Israel how quickly their hearts could be led astray. Instead of fighting battles to protect his people, the warrior king began to fight to protect his own ego. So off Samuel went to find Jesse, a father of sons.

Samuel watched the brothers pass by in birth order. He assumed God would send a man who matched the stature of Saul. But as each came before him, God stayed His hand. Almost as an afterthought, Jesse mentioned one more son, still out in the fields tending the sheep. Not even worthy to make an appearance. As the small, ruddy, bear-wrestling poet was called in, the old prophet readied his horn with oil. This was the one.

Often the king we’re looking for is not the king we need.

Even though Israel deserved a king like Saul, God wanted a man on the throne with a heart like His, the heart of a shepherd. Shepherds fight every bit as hard as warrior kings, but for different reasons. They don’t fight for trophies on a wall, but to protect their flock against predators.  

While his anointing happened that day in Bethlehem, David’s coronation was not immediate. He didn’t storm the palace and stage a coup, but entered as a servant, a musician to soothe the troubled mind of a failing king. He returned home to tend the flocks while his brothers were away at war. Yet not a moment of this time was wasted. David would one day fight Goliath because he knew the strength of God’s hand as he fought bears and lions coming after his sheep. He would lead Israel in worship because he found his singing voice out in the fields.

Anointed men and women of God don’t look past their own flock to the horizon of bigger and better things. They take care of the people God has already placed in their charge. They don’t try to elbow their way into a calling. They know fields can be proving grounds for kings. They are faithful in the waiting and hopeful in the anointing.

Centuries later, a cry would ring out in Bethlehem from another red-faced boy. This Anointed One was little more than an afterthought in David’s town. He didn’t have the stature for a palace, but He had the heart of a shepherd. And He would do whatever it took to protect His flock.

He wouldn’t be the king we were looking for. He would be the King we need.
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