Alan Howe

Thoughts on God following the Coronavirus Emergency

It occurred to me that King David knew a thing or two about finding God in period of isolation. Here are a couple of examples.

David as the youngest son of a large family was given the job of shepherd of his father’s flock. Whilst his seven older brother feasted at the family table, David was out alone with the sheep. Rather than brooding in resentment, David flourished in isolation. He wrote songs and he communed with his God. He stayed fit out in the open air and took responsibility and ownership of his lowly role. He put himself in harm’s way to protect the sheep. Many NHS workers are doing that right now for us. Among them is one of my children (a hospital care worker) and two of my daughter-in-laws (a nursing home activities coordinator and a classroom assistant in a school for pupils with special needs). You will have your own heroes. One of David’s songs has come to us across 3000 years of time: Psalm 23 The Shepherd Psalm. What he learned as a shepherd has brought comfort to many down the long centuries. God is there even in the deepest darkest valleys and he rescues us and feeds and nurtures us. Meanwhile back where people gathered in large numbers, he was singled out as God’s person to lead the nation and to pass on covenant faith. When he appeared he looked the part and inspired confidence.

(1Sa 16:11)  So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

(1Sa 16:12)  So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

Life was going to be tough for David and he would need to apply those lessons, learned in isolation. Faith is tested most in the biggest crisis. For him it was to come through the terrors of civil war. The man who had the right to dwell in an honoured place at the palace was forced to hide in a cave.

(1Sa 22:1)  David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there.

How did David handle this massive reversal? Did he cave in to depression and self pity? Did he lose sight of God and forget the promise of his own song? No. He stayed the man that Samuel had chosen and he showed there had been no mistake. I love the words of the next verse.

(1Sa 22:2)  All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander.

In the midst of all this he was given an opportunity to end his troubles by killing Saul but instead he showed mercy and compassion.

David was far from perfect and he made tremendous mistakes but he continued to listen to God and to his spiritual advisors. I think he was made the man he was in those early years as a shepherd. Few men have inspired for 3000 years and he will always be remembered as Israel’s greatest king.

In this enforced isolation may God speak to us and put his song in our hearts.

Alan Howe

Rector for St. Peters