This is a true story about a boy and a general. Once upon a time, there was a little boy who spent all his time watching sheep in the fields, far away from the camaraderie and teamwork shared by his seven big brothers around the house. They had all graduated to greater responsibilities; he was stuck with the livestock.
One otherwise normal day, the boy was called out of the field unexpectedly. He traipsed up to the tents and took in an unusual scene—no one was working, everyone was gathered around a special guest, and despite the excited tension in the air, no one seemed particularly happy. No sooner had the prophet come into focus than he was smiling over the boy, pulling out a vial of oil, and pushing the boy into a kneeling position. The boy heard strange words of blessing—Israel—King—YHWH—Anointed.
Over the next few hours and days, it began to sink in. He was chosen, and his calling was clear. He was the future king of his people, and a threat to the current and only king that they had ever known. Years before, the same prophet who spoke God’s calling to the boy had also anointed their first king. That king and his general were known to do what was right in their own eyes, not what God desired.
The next day the prophet left the boy’s family, the excitement diminished, and life went back to normal. Rather than being whisked off to a palace, the boy returned to the field, where the skills of watching, listening, waiting and defending began to take on new meaning. He was now in training to be a king. Any day now.
Except, nothing happened for awhile. Until some time later, when the boy encountered his first battle and became a hero by felling a giant with a slingshot. The king, the general, and the entire land learned the boys’ name that day. But his popularity only set him back further from his calling. The king and his general hated him for his success and began to watch him closely – too closely. And it only got worse.
The next few years consisted of retreats, escapes, betrayals, wars and loss. The future king spent most of his time fleeing persecution from the palace. Rather than accepting the boy into the line of succession, the king sought his destruction at every turn. The boy became an adult during those years of hiding, keeping secrets, and leading a band of outcasts and misfits through the wilderness. Twice he had perfect opportunities to kill the king and fulfill his destiny. God had chosen him! And killing your mortal enemy can easily be construed as an act of self-defense. Everyone would understand.
But in every moment of decision during these long years of unrealized calling, the boy practiced this humbling, faithful ritual that few of us do well – he asked God for direction. It almost makes one think that God’s Spirit fell upon him at his preteen anointing because of his ability to trust God’s leading. Without fail, the boy talked to God before any decision and then followed the instruction that God gave. And we know that God was pleased, because the Scriptures tell us, “The Lord was with him.”
The boy’s many years of stressful, dangerous waiting culminated in the most unimaginable loss. In one day, the king and his son, the boy’s best friend, died in utter tragedy and humiliation during battle. On the heels of this incredible sorrow, someone needed to become king. Rather than jumping at the chance, the boy asks God, and God instructs him to move to a place of secondary rule at Hebron in Judah, well outside the capital.
Here, the people are already predisposed to accept him as their ruler. The boy who was anointed to be the king over all his people instead rules over one province.
The general found a very different way to fill the leadership vacuum. He solved the problem his own way by propping up a biological heir to the throne. This son of the first king was weak, and day by day, power slips away from his kingdom.
For seven years. Seven whole years of bloodshed and cursing between the general’s monarch and God’s anointed. Seven years to honor incompetent puppet rulers who stood in the way of our hero’s clear and verified calling. Seven years of more war and more waiting.
Those seven years revealed that the general’s way didn’t work. He met his end through a series of betrayals and trickery. The king he had made for himself accused him of treachery, driving him to defect from the very kingdom he had spent his career serving. When he attempted to join forces with the army of God’s anointed king, he was met with mistrust and lured into his own murder. He died without a single trusted friend.
Finally, over 20 years after receiving his calling to rule as king, the boy from the fields sat on the throne of the whole kingdom for the first time. His life had not unfolded in any predictable fashion, with this exception – it involved years and years of hard waiting. The telling of today’s story ends with one essential truth: God was pleased with this king. He waited well.