King David’s Humble Origins

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The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” — 1 Samuel 16:1

As we remember the anniversary of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s passing this month, we offer you a selection of his devotional thoughts on leaving a legacy of faith.

During the rigorous campaign trail in a typical Canadian election, the scrutiny on a candidate is intense. Their previous statements and speeches are picked apart, their income tax returns are examined and their ancestry is explored. David became the most famous king in the history of Israel, but his nomination more than likely would never have passed any modern-day screening committee!

As opposed to his predecessor King Saul, David at least came from the proper tribe of Judah who was singled out for royal leadership. However, he came from the wrong side of the family.

The last paragraph of the book of Ruth mentions that she was the great-grandmother of David and then traces David’s origins all the way back ten generations to Perez. Often times, when the Bible lists name after name, begot after begot, we are inclined to skim it over quickly until the next story begins. However, here the Bible is making a subtle point by tracing David’s lineage to Perez, the child born out of wedlock to Judah and Tamar (see Genesis 38:29).

In biblical times, family lines meant a great deal and were studied and recorded. Everyone knew that David was from this illegitimate side of the royal family line, and surely this stain in his bloodline should have been a natural disqualifier for the monarchy.

Yet, it’s precisely because of David’s humble origins that he is selected to be king and which makes him such an inspiring leader. While he had many admirable qualities and noble virtues, David’s humility stands out throughout his reign. He never succumbed to the haughtiness and arrogance that all too often accompanies positions of power because he always remained aware of his humble origins.

In the last century, when the state of Israel was being organized, many pious and religious Jews felt that the secular Zionist political movement could not have been divinely ordained. After all, surely God would only bring about the salvation and return of the Jewish people to Israel through God-fearing individuals and leaders!

The selection of King David reminds us that the Lord works in mysterious, often unexpected, and even counterintuitive ways, and that He utilizes individuals who everyone else might have written off. And that’s good news for us. When faced with a daunting challenge, we can remember the humble origins of King David and that each one of us has great potential to be used for God’s great purposes and plans.

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