Saul stared at the young man, looking desperately for any sign of promise or hope. There was no debate that he was a talented musician. Many times, when the dark spirit descended on him, David had played and sang and that heavenly music had lifted his heavy heart. But these were difficult times and music was not going to provide deliverance today.
For forty days that Philistine behemoth had taunted them from across the valley. Each day he lay down the terms of his challenge: a one on one battle to the death, winner take all. For forty days Saul had scoured the camp unsuccessfully for a champion. Even after offering every manner of bribe and incentive, forty days of taunting and cursing and blasphemy had passed without a single soldier coming forward. No one had come forward until today, when this little youngster had wandered into camp.
Youngster. It was decided. “I'm sorry David, but you cannot fight this Philistine. You are much too young, and he's been trained as a warrior longer than you have been alive.” It was too much to risk the nation on a youth.
“If I may, Your highness. I've kept my father's flock for many years now. I've had to fight and kill lions and bears to protect the sheep. The Lord delivered me from those animals. He can deliver me from this uncircumcised Philistine.”
Saul stared. “Go,” he sighed, “and the Lord be with you.”
In John 10, Jesus contrasts the behavior of a shepherd with that of the hireling. Jesus describes the hireling as one who did not own or care for the sheep. In the face of danger, the hireling is more concerned for his own well-being than for that of the flock. He flees. By contrast, Jesus describes a good shepherd as one who lays down his life for the sheep.
David definitely meets the Lord's definition of a good shepherd. David described to Saul how he would chase down and kill a lion or a bear to save one of his father's stolen lambs. He was willing to risk his life to save what had been entrusted to his care. He would later run out to defend his people against the giant Goliath because He trusted God's ability to preserve him through danger.
The Lord Jesus also identifies Himself as a good shepherd. Like David he was willing to lay down His life for His sheep, His people. But unlike David, Jesus was not delivered from death but to death. He did not risk His life to save the lost and perishing, but gave it. He lay down His life. And, unlike David, Jesus also claimed the power to take it up again.