Introduction: 1 Samuel 17 is best known for David’s battle with Goliath. But only 20% of the verses in this chapter (vv. 40-51) deal with this battle. Thus, it would be a mistake to assume that the battle is the only relevant message in this chapter. Instead, the broader chapter should be understood in the context of the power of faith in God upon others. As one commentator explains, “So compelling and well-known is the drama that it has become the primary historical metaphor in Western culture for describing any individual or group who overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to defeat an oppressor. But the biblical narrative is not primarily a story about human courage and effort; instead, it is about the awesome power of a life built around bold faith in the Lord. Like the story of Jonathan earlier (c. 14:1-23), the account demonstrates the power of a single faith-filled life to inspire an entire army to victory and the vulnerability of all who ‘defy the armies of the living God’ (vv. 26, 36) when confronted by individuals who possess courageous faith in the Lord.” (Robert Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, The New American Commentary, Vol. 7, B&H Publishing Group (1996) p. 187). In this chapter, God reveals seven lessons for building your faith. These include: (1) trust in God; (2) meekness; (3) submission; (4) belief in His promises; (5) service to Him; (6) hearing the Word; and (7) remembrance.
First, Saul and his army were petrified with fear at the sight of Goliath because they did not trust in God’s promises. From this, God reveals that your faith is perfected when you learn to trust in Him to fight your battles. Second, God used the smallest and youngest member of Jesse’s household as His instrument of deliverance. From this, He reveals that your faith is perfected in your meekness because it forces you to trust in Him. Third, Saul failed to entice the Jews to fight by offering earthly rewards. In contrast, David exhorted the Jews to fight for God’s honor. From this God reveals that your faith is perfected when you submit your will to His will. Fourth, David’s oldest brother and Saul both doubted in either David’s motives or in his abilities. But David knew that he could prevail because he believed in God’s promises of victory. From this, God reveals that your faith is perfected through your belief in His promises. Fifth, David told Saul that he received all the training needed to fight Goliath through his service as a shepherd. From this, God reveals that your faith is perfected through your service to Him. Sixth, when it came time for battle, David faithfully proclaimed that God would deliver him in battle. From this, God reveals that your faith is perfected by hearing and proclaiming His Word. Finally, David took steps to remember and celebrate God’s deliverance while Saul did not. Like David, you can perfect your faith when you remember and celebrate the times that God delivers you.
Goliath taunts the Jews, and the Jews become filled with fear. Years after their last battle, an army of Jews and Philistines faced off, and a giant named Goliath taunted the Jews. Yet, neither Saul nor any other Jewish leader encouraged the Jews to trust in God. As a result, the Jews were petrified with fear: “1 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh which belongs to Judah, and they camped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2 Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and camped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines. 3 The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them. 4 Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale-armor which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 He also had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron; his shield-carrier also walked before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel and said to them, ‘Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.’ 10 Again the Philistine said, ‘I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.’ 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” (1 Sam. 17:1-11). This was a battle that would never have been fought if Saul had the faith of his son Jonathan. Years earlier, Jonathan started a war with the Philistines when his father failed to act (1 Sam. 13-14). Saul tried to avoid starting the war to preserve his power. He also prolonged the war by preventing his men from finishing off the Philistines when the Lord had handed them a great victory. He starved his men as part of a self-centered and foolish vow. This allowed the Philistines to rebuild and regroup to face the Jews here. The two armies stood on opposite mountains with a dry riverbed valley in between them. The chief antagonist of the Jews, Goliath, came from a family of large men from Gath (1 Sam. 17:4; 1 Chron. 20:5-8). In most modern Bibles, his height is recorded as “six cubits and a span”. (1 Sam. 17:4). A cubit was the average distance between the elbow to the fingertips. The Babylonians, the Egyptians and the Semitic peoples all used this unit of measure. Yet, they each applied it differently. The unit of measure listed in most modern Bibles would place Goliath somewhere between 8’5’’ and 9’2”. In contrast, the older Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts and ancient Jewish Josephus listed his height as a smaller but still imposing “four cubits and a span” or 6’6’’. (Ant. 6.17). His weapons and armor together weighed between 150 and 200 pounds. His height, his armor and weapons likely made him seem invincible. Goliath used his imposing size and his armor to fill the Jews with fear.
Without trust and faith in God, He is unlikely to help you with your enemies. This was not the first time that the Jews were filled with fear when Saul failed to trust God and encourage his troops in the face of a Philistine army. “But as for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.” (1 Sam. 13:7). Saul was a head taller than the typical Jew (1 Sam. 9:2). Thus, he would have been the ideal person to fight Goliath. At one point, he was a brave warrior (1 Sam. 14:52). Yet, when he rejected God, the Spirit left him (1 Sam. 16:14). Without the Spirit, Saul was filled with fear. Because the Jews did not have a leader who trusted God, the entire army was fearful (1 Sam. 17:11). The Jews’ fear of alleged “giants” in the Promised Land also once kept them from invading (Nu. 13:32-33). Without faith, it is impossible to please Him: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Are you letting fear rule any portion of your life? If so, repent and trust in Jesus to deliver you.
Goliath taunted the Jews1
Living outside of God’s protections will leave you helpless before your enemies. Without God’s protection, the Jews also felt helpless when the Philistines placed an embargo on iron weapons against them (1 Sam. 13:19-23). For a wayward society or individual, there is no protection without God. “Your carcasses will be food to all birds of the sky and to the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away.” (Dt. 28:26). “As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall.” (Lev. 26:36). “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, . . . so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.” (Josh. 2:14; Lam. 2:17; Jer. 19:7; 7:33; Ps. 79:2). “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, . . .” (Prov. 28:1). If you are fighting your battles without God, you may eventually feel powerless against enemies and forces that you cannot control. Give these battles to God and live in peace.
With faith and trust in God, you can defeat the giants in your life. This also was not the first time that the Jews faced and defeated giants in battle. The Jews previously fought and defeated another giant named King Og. His bed was nine cubits long and four cubits wide or 13’6” long! (Dt. 3:11). By faith in God’s promises, they fought and defeated him. If Saul had faith, he would have reminded the Jews to trust in God’s faithfulness to defeat their enemies: “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” (Ex. 23:27). ‘“This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’” (Dt. 2:25). “I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.” (Ex. 33:2). His power defeated Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea. His power also defeated the kings of Jordan. His power also delivered the Promised Land to the Jews. He wants you to know that He is powerful enough to fulfill His promises to you as well. Yet, if you don’t know His promises, how much faith can you have in them? If you have a leadership role like Saul, are you encouraging others?
The sins of a leader can affect the entire community. Saul’s actions show that the ungodly actions of one leader can impact an entire nation. Hundreds of years earlier, Joshua reminded the people that the sin of one person caused the entire nation to lose in battle: ‘“Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and wrath fall on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.’” (Josh. 22:20). Solomon also warned that: “. . . but one sinner destroys much good.” (Ecc. 9:18). Are you praying for the nation’s leaders to repent and turn to God?
You can trust in God to keep His promises. God once asked Abraham: “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). When the Jews first reached the edge of the Promised Land, Moses reminded the Jews to trust that this was the land “which the LORD our God is about to give us.” (Dt. 1:20). Moses exhorted: “See, the Lord your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Dt. 1:21). If you trust in God’s promises, you will not fear. Yet, if you cannot name any of His promises, you cannot have faith in Him to fulfill them. Thus, you must study the Word to learn them.
A lack of trust in God brings fear and paranoia. Just as the Jews feared Goliath, they also feared the inhabitants of the Promised Land. The 10 faithless Jewish spies reported: “There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Nu. 13:33). The people’s fear then turned to paranoia. The people went so far as to believe that God “hated” His people, even after He unleashed 10 plagues in Egypt to free them from captivity (Dt. 1:27-28). To have true peace, you must trust God and have Spirit-led obedience (Lev. 26:6). To those who have faith and obey, He promises the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7). With faith and obedience, He also promises victory over your enemies (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). By contrast, if you fail to trust God and if you are disobedient, He may bring upon you fear and paranoia (Lev. 26:14-17). Are you afraid of anything besides God?
Fear is “false evidence appearing real”. The Lord is the only thing that you are to fear (Prov. 1:7), which is defined as hating evil (Prov. 8:12). “The fear of man brings a snare. But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). J. Vernon McGee observed that: “when you are afraid and you have lost your faith, difficulties and problems are magnified. They become greater than they really are.” (Thru the Bible Commentary Series, Numbers p. 90). Although David was the smallest man in his family, he feared no evil or any enemy because he had faith that God was fighting for him. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?. . . Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arises against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.” (Ps. 27:1-3). “I fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Ps. 23:4). “How blessed in the man that fears the Lord . . . He will not fear evil tidings” (Ps. 112:7). “Say to the anxious heart, ‘take courage, fear not.” (Is. 34:4). The next time you fear, recite His promises: “Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand . . . Do not fear, I will help you.” (Is. 41:10, 13). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). Are you trusting in the Spirit for strength?
Fear comes when we take our minds off the Lord. The Jews’ lacked faith because they took their minds off the Lord. Likewise, Peter began to walk on water when the Lord called him (Matt. 14:29). “But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, Lord save me.” (Matt. 14:30). After saving him, Jesus responded: “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” (Matt. 14:31). Paul reveals that it is the “spirit of slavery” which “lead[s] to fear.” (Rom 8:15). The last time you felt fear, did you take your eyes off Jesus?
Perfect love casts out all fear. Christ warns that you will experience tribulation in the world (Jo. 16:33). The reason for this is that the world is cursed (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:20-22). But Jesus said we can overcome this tribulation with the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). But this peace only exists when we are in fellowship with God. For it is “impossible” to please God when we lack faith (Heb. 11:6). If the Jews knew God’s love for them, they would not have feared. There is nothing “able to separate us from the love of God.” (Rom. 8:38). Knowing this, “perfect love casts out fear. . . ” (1 Jo. 4:18). The next time you fear, pray for God to cast out your fear.
To have faith, don’t rely upon your senses. The Jews felt fear because they relied upon what they saw in the physical world. Before Jesus left, He promised that He would leave us with “a helper” – the Holy Spirit – to teach us His will (Jo. 14:26). But we cannot see Him directly. We need to trust God and know that He is there. Jesus explained that many see without seeing and hear without hearing (Matt. 13:13; Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10). The Jews had seen God’s miracles many times. But that was not enough for them to trust Him. You have likely seen miracles in your life. Has that been enough for you to trust God in the face of hardships? (Jo. 1:5; 3:19). Or, do you trust in what you can see?
God used the youngest and smallest member of Jesse’s house to save the Jews. While the Jews were paralyzed with fear, God’s prepared savior was tending to his father’s sheep because he was too young to serve in battle. “12 Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse, and he had eight sons. And Jesse was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men. 13 The three older sons of Jesse had gone after Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and the second to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. Now the three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s flock at Bethlehem. 16 The Philistine came forward morning and evening for forty days and took his stand. 17 Then Jesse said to David his son, ‘Take now for your brothers an ephah of this roasted grain and these ten loaves and run to the camp to your brothers. 18 Bring also these ten cuts of cheese to the commander of their thousand, and look into the welfare of your brothers, and bring back news of them. 19 For Saul and they and all the men of Israel are in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.’” (1 Sam. 17:12-19). Here, we told that Jesse had eight sons, and that David was the youngest (1 Sam. 17:14). In a different book, we are told that there were only seven sons (1 Chr. 2:13). This suggests that an older brother died before this battle. Saul previously made David a servant in his court (1 Sam. 16:22). The context suggests that David was allowed to return to his family to help while Jesse sent his three eldest brothers into battle. David was previously called a warrior (1 Sam. 16:18). Yet, he was still likely younger than the Bible’s minimum military age of 20 (Nu. 1:3, 19).
God tests His people to build up our faith. The Philistines taunted the Jews for 40 days (1 Sam. 17:16). In the Bible, 40 is a number that symbolizes God’s testing. The 12 Jewish spies spent 40 days in the Promised Land (Nu. 13:25). Moses lived in the wilderness for 40 years (Ex. 2:16-25). The Jews later wandered in the wilderness for 40 years (Nu. 14:34; Dt. 8:2). Jesus was likewise in the wilderness for 40 days (Matt. 4:1-4). God tested the Jews to show the weakness of their faith. Once He exposed their fear and lack of trust in Him, He brought a lowly man who would deliver His people.
God uses the meek as His instrument to deliver His people. As one commentator notes, “Saul seems to focus on the size of the enemy rather than on the size of God. God always seems to give us enemies who are much greater than we are, so that we fight in our weakness, trusting in God and not in ourselves, giving Him the glory, rather than taking the credit ourselves.” (Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh 14. David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-58)).2 In your meekness, He also perfects your faith so that you will trust in Him and not in your own strength: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:9). God warns us not to despise the small and the meek: “For who has despised the day of small things? . . .” (Zech 4:10(a)). He encouraged Gideon that he would prevail in his battle against the mighty Midianites when he heard them talk about a lowly loaf of barley bread (a symbol of him) defeating them (Jdgs. 7:12-15). God will also lift you up when you humble yourself in faith to Him: “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Jam. 4:10). “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” (Lk. 1:52). Have you humbled yourself before God?
Saul sought to entice the Jews with earthly rewards, while David fought for God’s honor. Upon arriving, David was dismayed to see Goliath taunt the Jews and God without any response. Saul’s attempt to entice people with earthly rewards failed to motivate them to risk their lives: “20 So David arose early in the morning and left the flock with a keeper and took the supplies and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the circle of the camp while the army was going out in battle array shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines drew up in battle array, army against army. 22 Then David left his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper, and ran to the battle line and entered in order to greet his brothers. 23 As he was talking with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine from Gath named Goliath, was coming up from the army of the Philistines, and he spoke these same words; and David heard them. 24 When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid. 25 The men of Israel said, ‘Have you seen this man who is coming up? Surely he is coming up to defy Israel. And it will be that the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.’ 26 Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?’ 27 The people answered him in accord with this word, saying, ‘Thus it will be done for the man who kills him.’” (1 Sam. 17:20-27). David showed himself to be a responsible shepherd both in the physical and spiritual worlds. In the physical realm, he ensured that someone would protect and feed his father’s sheep while he was gone (1 Sam. 17:20). In the spiritual realm, he sought to encourage God’s sheep by exhorting them to fight for God’s Kingdom and His honor (1 Sam. 17:26). In contrast, Saul offered physical enticements for spiritual problems. He offered his daughter, riches, and a tax free existence (1 Sam. 17:25). Because fear is a spiritual problem, his worldly enticements failed.
God’s promises to be a shield for those who submit to Him. God promises to be a shield to all who submit to Him: “As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” (2 Sam. 22:31). “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5). As part of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus invites you to pray daily for God’s protection (Matt. 6:13). If you submit your will to His, He will be a hedge of protection against any evil.
David’s brother and his king doubted David, but David had faith. David’s oldest brother Eliab doubted David’s motives for encouraging the Jews to fight. Saul, his king, then doubted David when he was the only one brave enough to offer to fight Goliath: “28 Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger burned against David and he said, ‘Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.’ 29 But David said, ‘What have I done now? Was it not just a question?’ 30 Then he turned away from him to another and said the same thing; and the people answered the same thing as before. 31 When the words which David spoke were heard, they told them to Saul, and he sent for him. 32 David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’ 33 Then Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.’” (1 Sam. 17:28-33). Both Eliab and Saul viewed David as insignificant or worthless to the fight because of his age and size. Eliab presumed that David merely wanted to be a spectator in someone else’s fight. Eliab was tall (1 Sam. 16:7). He may have felt rebuked for refusing to fight the tall Philistine who tormented them. Saul waited for 40 days for a savior. But he still doubted the heart of the only man to step forward. Both Eliab and Saul sinned by doubting David because of his youth. In contrast, David showed his virtue through his example: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (1 Tim. 4:12). In Samuel chapter 16, God revealed that He selected David as His king because he had a heart “after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14; 16:7). Here, God reveals through David’s faith, his service to God, his efforts to encourage others and his trust in God’s promises that he had a heart after God’s heart.
David’s brothers and Saul doubted David’s ability to defeat the giant Goliath3
Belief in God’s promises will keep you from falling away from Him. Saul felt fear because he did not believe in his heart in God’s promises. “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12). Disbelief also kept the first generation of Jews who left Egypt from entering the Promised Land: “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:19). Disbelief in Jesus as your Lord and Savior will also keep you from the eternal Promised Land: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Jo. 3:18). Is there any area where you struggle with disbelief?
David’s faith was perfected through his service as a shepherd. To convince Saul that he could prevail in combat, David explained that he received all the training that he needed through his faithful service defending against enemies as a shepherd: “34 But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.’ 37 And David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you.’ 38 Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor. 39 David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ And David took them off. 40 He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:34-40). In the wilderness, God previously tested David’s heart through encounters with lions and bears. David served faithfully in his small tasks. More importantly, he gave credit to God each time God delivered him from harm (1 Sam. 17:37). By showing himself faithful in the small things, he proved himself ready to take on larger tasks. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” (Lk. 16:10; 19:17). As one commentator explains: “This is generally God’s pattern for preparation. He calls us to be faithful right where we are and then uses our faithfulness to accomplish greater things. If David ran scared at the lion or the bear, he would never have been ready to fight Goliath now. But he was faithful then, so he will be faithful now.” (David Guzik on 1 Sam. 17).4
God prepared David through his faithful service as a shepherd5
Serve Jesus to perfect your faith. When you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, He prepares you for His service (Heb. 8:1; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 5:10). As a new creation, He also created you to serve both Him and others through good works: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10). When you serve Him, He will build up your faith. Is there evidence of God’s transformation through your good works for others?
In spiritual warfare, wear the right kind of armor. Saul continued to see the battle as a physical one. Thus, he felt that David could only match Goliath with the king’s armor. But these things only hindered David in his ability to walk. David trusted in God alone to prevail in the battle when he took off his physical armor. Instead, he trusted God to provide his spiritual armor: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:11-12). When you wear God’s armor, no weapon can harm you. “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; . . .” (Is. 54:17). David also selected five stones. In the Bible, five is the number of grace. It was through God’s grace alone that David would prevail.
David prevailed by boldly proclaiming God’s name in faith. Before the battle, Goliath taunted David and Yahweh. David prevailed by boldly proclaiming God’s name and then acting in faith: “41 Then the Philistine came on and approached David, with the shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine also said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.’ 45 Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.’ 48 Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground. 50 Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.” (1 Sam. 17:41-51). Goliath mocked David because he only brought a sling and rocks to what Goliath thought was a physical battle (1 Sam. 17:42-44). David mocked Goliath for bringing “a sword, a spear and a javelin” to a spiritual fight against “the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.” (1 Sam. 17:45). If you see your battles as spiritual and trust in God, He will also win your battles.
God guided David’s stone to kill Goliath6
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) “David Slaying Goliath” (oil canvas 1616)7
Caravaggio (1573-1610) “David with the Head of Goliath” (oil canvas 1601/2)8
Faith comes from speaking and hearing God’s Word. When Goliath cursed God and David by his gods (1 Sam. 17:26, 43), David likely knew that Goliath had cursed himself under God’s Covenant with Abraham. “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” (Gen. 12:3(a)). Before he began the battle, David proclaimed: “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, . . .” (1 Sam. 17:46). He then “killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand.” (1 Sam. 17:50). David’s sword was the Word of God. Gideon’s 300 troops also prevailed against the Midianities when they blew trumpets and cried out “‘A sword for the Lord . . . !’” (Jdgs. 7:21). Then, “the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled . . .” (Jdgs. 7:22). For both David and Gideon, the “sword for the Lord” also symbolized the power of the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). After David’s stone went into Goliath’s forehead, “he fell on his face to the ground.” (1 Sam. 17:49). This is also what happened to the Philistine god Dagon when they was placed it before the power of God’s ark (1 Sam. 5:2-5). One day, every knee will also bow to His holy power (Ro. 14:11).
Praying in Jesus’ name and His Word is also the antidote to fear. What do you do when your faith is lacking? “[F]aith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). David was able to show no fear because he called upon “the name of the Lord” (1 Sam. 17:45). The next time you fear, recite Jesus’ promises and His name in faith as you pray: “Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand . . . Do not fear, I will help you.” (Is. 41:10, 13). The next time you fear, pray in Jesus’ name to boost your faith, and ask Him to cast out your fears.
Do not turn your back on your spiritual challenges. David did not give Goliath the opportunity to strike him first. Nor did he turn and run. “David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:48). The armor of God does not have any covering on the back side. The “breastplate of righteousness” covers only the front (Eph. 6:14). This is because God alone protects the back of any believer. “ . . . for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Is. 52:12). “. . . The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.” (Is. 58:8). You only need to stand and fight. “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.” (Dt. 20:1). Are you running into the spiritual battlefields around you to fight against the evil one for God?
When you walk with God, He promises to cause your enemies to fear you as well. After God used David as His instrument to defeat Goliath, the Philistines “fled.” (1 Sam. 17:51). When leaders are faithful and obedient, God also promises to cause the nation’s enemies to be filled with fear: “So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you.” (Dt. 28:10). In the Bible, there are many examples of when other nations feared the Jews because of God. For example, Pharaoh feared God’s wrath when he almost took Abraham’s wife Sarah as his wife (Gen. 12:17-20). Likewise, after defeating the Amorites, the Jews traveled back to the plains of Moab where they stayed until God gave the word for Joshua to take them into the Promised Land (Nu. 22:1). There, the Moabites feared the Jews (Nu. 22:3-4). Their fear caused the Moabite King Balak to hire the sorcerer Balaam in an unsuccessful attempt to cast a spell on Israel (Nu. 22:7). The kings of Canaan again feared the Jews and their God when they invaded. The Canaanites “heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.” (Josh. 5:1; Ex. 15:15-16). Are you walking in faith to allow His Spirit to defeat your enemies?
God alone will deliver you in battle against the evil one. The message for believers today is that you should never rely upon your own strength to defeat your spiritual enemy. Instead, like David, God wants you to put your faith and trust in Him alone: “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.” (Ps. 20:7). “The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength.” (Ps. 33:16). “For by their own sword they did not possess the land, and their own arm did not save them, but Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, for You favored them.” (Ps. 44:3). “For I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me.” (Ps. 44:6; 60:11; 146:3; Hos. 1:7). Do you trust in God to deliver you?
Remember that some of God’s blessings are conditional upon our faith. We do not earn our salvation by our works. But many blessings or curses on Earth turn upon our faith and Spirit-led obedience. An “unbelieving heart” will cause a person to fall away from God (Heb. 3:12). God warned Abraham to obey His angel (Ex. 23:21-22; see also Lev. 26:7-8; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). This was therefore a conditional promise. Abraham had to obey in faith to receive the blessing. The Jews were later barred from entering the Promised Land because of their unbelief and disobedience (Heb. 3:19; 4:6, 11). God also warned that He would vomit the Jews out of the Promised Land if they did not keep His statutes (Lev. 20:22). God rewarded David because he acted with faith-led obedience. Are you living a life of faith-led obedience for God’s glory?
David takes steps to remember God’s victory while Saul gives God no credit. After the battle ended, David took Goliath’s head to Jerusalem to always remember God’s victory. In contrast, Saul gave no credit to God. He became so spiritually blind that he could not even remember who David’s parents were: “52 The men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted and pursued the Philistines as far as the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the slain Philistines lay along the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath and Ekron. 53 The sons of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines and plundered their camps. 54 Then David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his weapons in his tent. 55 Now when Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner the commander of the army, ‘Abner, whose son is this young man?’ And Abner said, ‘By your life, O king, I do not know.’ 56 The king said, ‘You inquire whose son the youth is.’ 57 So when David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine’s head in his hand. 58 Saul said to him, ‘Whose son are you, young man?’ And David answered, ‘I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.’” (1 Sam. 17:52-58). The Septuagint omits the concluding verses 55-58, alone with verses 12-31, 41, 50, 55-58. Modern Bibles, however, include these verses because they appear in the traditional Hebrew text, known as the Masoretic Text. By the fact that David was tending to his family’s sheep when the battle started (1 Sam. 17:15), we can infer that he was no longer frequently in Saul’s presence at this time. But Saul’s lack of knowledge of David’s family showed his spiritual blindness. If he were walking with the Spirit, he would have taken steps to celebrate God. Instead, he wondered what family line gave David his might in battle.
Give credit to Jesus alone for your successes. David later praised God as both the Rock who killed Goliath and the person who trained the aim of his fingers in the heat of battle: “A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;” (Ps. 144:1). David also gave thanks for God’s deliverance: “Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.” (Ps. 54:6). “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” (Ps. 92:1). God’s great leaders all gave credit to Him for their victories. For example, Joseph gave credit to God for his ability to interpret dreams (Gen. 41:16). Paul also clarified that a believer’s abilities come from God alone (2 Cor. 3:5; Ro. 15:18; Zech. 4:6). Do you credit Jesus for your successes?
Sing God’s praises for others to hear. Throughout the Psalms, David repeatedly gave glory to God for all that He had done: “I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.” (Ps. 7:17; 9:2; 29:2; 34:3; 66:2). Are you singing God’s praises for others as a witness to His power?
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