The Epic Life- David and Daniel

I have just considered the examples of David and Daniel, two Old Testament heroes that found their great calling in life, and did so in ways that were both different and similar to each other.

David decided to fill the role of a hero as a conscious and deliberate choice. The behavior of everyone else around him was to shrink and be fearful, and he could have easily done the same, but he set himself apart and elected something different. That election elevated David above the norm and made him stand out.

Daniel decided to hold to his principles, also as a conscious and deliberate choice. At first these principles were the everyday expectation of his culture, but then Israel fell into the hands of strangers and those norms rapidly dropped out from underneath Daniel. Daniel still held to them, though, setting himself apart to maintain this same level, even while the world fell beneath him.

In each case, David and Daniel set themselves apart. Whether in embracing a new behavior or in maintaining an old one they were standing for what was right, and doing so at a level that was higher than those who surrounded them. And this seems to be what defines the epic life, the hero, the divine calling. It is to do the right thing when others will not.

This is Noah building an ark when no one else was. This was Joseph turning down temptation in Potiphar’s house. This was Ruth leaving her old culture to live as a Jew. This was Jesus not throwing a stone at the woman taken in adultery. These were all heroes. And what made them heroes was that they did what was right even though it was different from what everyone else was doing.

The Epic Life- 1 Samuel 17:22-24, 32

And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.
And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

COMMENTARY

And David ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. And there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name. And all the men of Israel fled from him, and were sore afraid.
When David visited the army he found Israel in dire straits. A hero was being called for, and not a single one could be found. Thousands of soldiers, to be sure, but not any hero. And among so many fearful, who would have blamed David if he cowered, too? He could have heard that giant’s taunts, shrugged his shoulders and slunk away. No one would have blamed him. If anything he had more excuse than all the rest, for he was still a youth. They were soldiers and he was merely a shepherd!

And David said, Let no man’s heart fail; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine
Yet David did not slink away, tail between legs. Because in spite of all rational reasons to be scared, he wasn’t. Or if he was, that fear was overrun by the call that he must answer. He was not just a lowly sheepherder, he was a son of God, and obligated to defend his country.
The giant was calling for a challenger, old King Saul was calling for a champion, God was calling for a representative. Many heard the cries, but it was David alone who elected to answer. This is the beginning of David’s great life, and he lived it only because he applied to the position.

Solemnity and Joy- 2 Samuel 6:14-16, 20-21

And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.
So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord.

COMMENTARY

And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And Michal saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart
Today we have the example of King David when he was caught in the rapture of praising God. He had just concluded a campaign against the Philistines and capped it off by bringing the Ark of the Covenant back into the heart of Israel.
He was evidently very joyous in this moment and took to dancing “with all his might.” Biblical commentaries have stated that this sort of vivacious dance was by no means an unusual practice, but that it was typically performed by a priest. This is likely why Michal felt the king was debasing himself by performing it, she felt he was acting beneath his royal station.

Michal came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, therefore will I play before the Lord.

A rift grows between the two of them, but David maintains his reasoning for showing such levity: it was done as an honor to God, and when honoring God called for joyous cavorting, that was simply what David was going to do.
As I have already stated, sometimes honoring God calls for quiet dignity, and that is what one should observe in those moments. But sometimes it calls for displays of rapturous joy, and in such cases there is no evil in embracing that spirit. Of course that doesn’t mean we loosen our morals and become obscene, but we are welcome to freely display our joy without shame.

Leading to Water- 1 Samuel 17:32, 38-40

And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.
And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

COMMENTARY

And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine
When Goliath taunted the Israelite armies there was no one in the ranks willing to face him. Israel was in need of a heroic warrior but no one was answering the call. Now once upon a time that hero might have been King Saul himself, but Saul’s great warrior days were long passed. So someone new was needed to take the mantle, and it was into this vacancy that David entered.

And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head
And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; And David put them off him
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook
Saul was grateful to receive David into this heroic role, and tried to give him his own tools of the trade. But they were ill-fitting for David and he couldn’t make do with them. Saul was dressing up David to fight the giant in close-combat. Maybe that approach would have worked for Saul, but Saul wasn’t the one going to fight the giant. David was, and David worked better at range. David defended his flocks with sling and stone, not sword and shield.
This was David’s calling now and he needed to go about it is own way, with the strengths he had developed himself, with the skills God had bestowed on him.
There is a great temptation for mentors to hover over, to micromanage, and to make sure things are done the “right way.” But so long as the protégé never finds their own “right” way, they can never realize their full potential. Sooner or later everyone else must leave the room and leave the would-be hero alone with God. That is when one really learns what they are made of.