This post is written by Leslie Hudson and is published as a companion to Unit 11, Session 2 of The Gospel Project for Adults Vol. 4 (Summer 2022): From Unity to Division.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I have what I need.” These opening words from Psalm 23 are beautiful and comforting. They’re recited by preschoolers and read aloud at funerals. They may have been some of the most famous words of poetry ever penned.
David, the Fighting Shepherd
And you probably know that David was the one who wrote this song; he was a shepherd from his young years, and he knew what it meant to keep sheep. But only when you look deeply into 1 Samuel 17 does it all come together—David was a really good shepherd. He was brave and bold. When questioned about his ability to fight Goliath, he said this to Saul: “Whenever a lion or bear came and carried off a lamb from the flock, I went after it, struck it down, and rescued the lamb from its mouth. If it reared up against me, I would grab it by its fur, strike it down, and kill it” (1 Sam. 17:34-35).
That, combined with Psalm 23, changes my image of a shepherd. I don’t see him sitting peacefully, playing a harp, overseeing some lounging sheep. No–this shepherd was willing to FIGHT. He wasn’t just a fair-weather sheep minder; he was brave enough to grab a helpless little lamb out of the mouth of a massive beast and kill such beast. He had skills in defending his flock and he wasn’t afraid to risk his own safety to protect his charges. David was ready to face Goliath because God had proven Himself faithful to him in the sheep fields. He was confident that God would also be with him on the battlefield.
Jesus, Our Fighting Shepherd
And maybe this should change our imagery when we read John 10:14-15: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.” Again, I think I had the wrong image in mind: Jesus, the suffering servant, wasn’t lacking in any strength. Remember as He was arrested He said, “Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will provide me here and now with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). Like David, Jesus was willing to fight for us. Like David, He knew the Father.
But Jesus chose to lay down His life so that we might have victory—not over Goliath but over sin and death. Jesus was, is, and forever will be, the good shepherd. Though He didn’t call down those legions of angels, He instead became the sacrificial lamb so that we wouldn’t need to die for our sin.
Luckily, the story didn’t stop there: like David, Jesus was more than a conqueror over His greatest enemy: death. Though Jesus chose to die for us, He also had the power to triumph over death and rise from the grave. Just as David ran toward Goliath, sling spinning, Jesus came forth from the grave, fully alive and eternally glorified! Hallelujah! So don’t read this week’s story of David and Goliath without realizing who it really points to. Don’t think of it as a children’s tale or an inspirational account. With his words and actions, David was pointing to his holiest descendant, Jesus, our Savior and fighting, good shepherd.
Leslie Hudson loves her mornings of silence, coffee, and Jesus; not in that order. She lives with her husband and kids in White Bluff, Tennessee, where they raise blueberries, figs, and bees. She loves to spend her free time reading, writing, journaling, and helping others know and follow Jesus.