Have you been in a sheep pen? Most of us have, though maybe not a literal one. Some of us choose to stay there. Others move on. It may be time to accept your new identity.
David, an ordinary, unknown boy, spent many years in a real sheep pen as a youthful shepherd. Day after day, night after night, he led them in and out, over hills and through the valleys. Scripture doesn’t record all the times David must have wiped the sheep dung from his sandals, or lay down exhausted from wrestling with stubborn sheep all day–not to mention killing lions and a giant.
Beneath a velvet blanket of twinkling stars he sang his psalms as his fingers danced over the strings of a harp. Did anyone hear him? At times, no one but God. Then something amazing happened. God called him out of the sheep pen to become a king.
That was the prologue. In fiction, that’s a backward look at the beginning of the book (Or a forward look, then the story backtracks to an earlier time). At this point, I could go several directions. But I’m choosing to cheat and move forward to the end of the story, centuries ahead from David’s time in the Old Testament to Paul’s life in the New Testament. And guess who Paul is talking about? None other than David.
A Forward Look
The apostle Paul is on one of his missionary journeys, speaking in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. Listen to part of his message to the Gentiles as He spells out some of the chapters of “God’s story:” “But God removed him [Saul] from the kingship and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘David son of Jesse is a man after my own heart, for he will do everything I want him to'” (Acts 13:22, NLT).
God Saw the Bigger Picture
Come again? You know the rest of the story. God took David from the sheep pen, but as a king who committed adultery and murder, David crawled back in again. But God, who took him out of the sheep pen as a young man, chose not to identify David by his weakness and moral failure. Throughout the New Testament, David’s reputation followed him–the reputation God gave him: “a man after God’s own heart.” Why?
What did God see that David couldn’t? David suffered some huge consequences, as a result of his sin. He lost a baby and endured the humiliation of a rebellious son who also died. But God kept looking at David’s heart. David turned back to God, and God chose to honor the covenant promise He had made with David.
A New Identity
God saw the bigger picture–a man He destined for the lineage of Jesus. He gave him a new identity–one God wrote from the beginning. Once again, God called David from the sheep pen. And David chose to follow. Near the end of the New Testament in Hebrews 11:32, the writer includes David’s name in the roll call of faithful servants and believers through the centuries.
Who Defines You?
Who defines you? How have others identified you? How do you identify yourself? “Child of God?” “Woman/Man after God’s own heart?” “Christ Follower?”
Or do you answer to the name of “Loser!” “No good!” “Hopeless!”
God Loves Sheep
God loves sheep, wayward though we are. He never overlooks sin. But the Good Shepherd (Jesus) walked through all the sheep dung on earth and lay down His life so that we wouldn’t have to stay in that sheep pen all our lives. To those who accept His call, He gives them a new identity. Oh, we’re still sheep. But we’re His sheep. He looks beyond the sin in our lives, beyond the pen where we’ve been, and moves us out into the green pastures He has planned for us all along–as men and women after God’s own heart.
Isn’t it time you see yourself as God sees you? Who will you believe? Others? Yourself? Or God? How you view yourself is the difference between real living and existing. Maybe it’s time to accept your new identity in Christ.
“He chose his servant David, calling him from the sheep pens” (Psalm 78:70, NLT).
My Personal Prayer for You
God, we are so much like sheep. At times, we listen to and follow everyone but You. Lord, help us to move out of our self-made sheep pens into the wonderful pastures that you have provided for us. We’re choosing to abandon our old thoughts and habits. There is such freedom in believing–and acting on the identity You have given to us. Truly we want to be women and men after Your own heart. What a good–and great–Shepherd You are!
What about you? Who are you believing?