Editorial: Monotony and Obscurity

David had been called to the palace. What must have been his thoughts? He had been anointed by Samuel in the midst of his brothers in the privacy of remote Bethlehem. How would he, a lowly shepherd boy and the “least” in his father’s house, ascend to the throne? And then the messenger came requesting his presence before the king. Was God now opening the door to the throne for him?

But 1 Samuel 16 with its bright expectations gives way to chapter 17 and the battle scene at Elah. What has become of David? We are told, almost tongue-in-cheek, that “David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep in Bethlehem” (1 Sam 17:15). From the throne room back to the sheep cote! Some would view it as a tremendous demotion. Were God’s plans derailed? Had war with the Philistines frustrated God’s timetable and tactics for David’s life?

However long the days were when he “returned … to feed … sheep,” they were not wasted days. Maybe it was during one of those days that he confronted the lion or the bear. Perhaps it was during one of those nights that he peered up into the vast expanse of the created universe and burst into the praise of Psalm 8 or Psalm 19. Or perhaps they were days of just carrying out the “routine” responsibilities of caring for sheep. Monotony marked each day as the same sheep grazed on the same fields beneath the same skies without anything exciting to interrupt and alter it. Add to the monotony of the routine, the obscurity of the unknown. No one was there to notice his careful shepherding of the sheep. Monotony and obscurity – conditions which have broken many a man.

But in God’s school, monotony and obscurity lead to spiritual maturity. Where did the man come from who could withstand the giant? From relative obscurity. What had prepared him to stand against the giant? The preparation in days of monotony.

We all want to do the big thing, to be Goliath-slayers from day one. But God’s preparation is far different. The Christian life is not a life of moving from one spectacular event to the next. It involves keeping at the minor roles to which we have been assigned: teaching a Sunday school class week after week; preparing for a Bible reading week by week; visiting, encouraging, shepherding, caring. Nothing spectacular and nothing extraordinary. But here is where God finds His servants who, in His time, are ready to face the giants and to fell the Goliaths.

Keep at the minor role you have been given. In God’s service, the minor is never menial and always leads to the major. Those who wait to do the spectacular, rarely accomplish even the minor.