Ready to Meet Goliath
In First Samuel, chapter seventeen, we find the record of one of the greatest battles ever fought between opposing forces. It was a battle of two human beings. The victory was one of the most significant in the history of mankind. Aside from the interest and adventure of this thrilling event, and the impact it had on ancient Israel, it is still useful to us today by providing us with practical lessons and illustrations of truths we need to know and respect. It was the battle between David and Goliath, one of those accounts of the Old Testament "written for our learning" (Romans 15:4).
The effect of this struggle was tremendous upon so many. First, there was the nation of Israel. They were again victorious over a historical enemy. Second, the Philistines were affected and driven to a new defeat before the people of God. Third, the effect upon David personally was immeasurable because it sent him rocketing to high praise before the nation. In such a short time he leaped from a mere shepherd lad in Judas to a great warrior and national hero. He embarked upon a career of service before Israel that would occupy the remainder of his life.
Israel and the Philistines had come to battle as was often the case between these two nations. But instead of going into full warfare as on other occasions, Goliath, a Philistine giant stepped forward with a challenge. "Why are ye come out to set your battle in array ? Am I not Philistine. and ye the servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants, but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us” (First Samuel 17: 8,9). He proposed, rather than a wholesale war, a one-on-one fight, winner take all. He would represent Philistia and Israel should choose their man.
The challenge sent fear through the Israelite camp, even to Saul. Meanwhile, David, a shepherd, had been sent by his father with supplies to David’s brothers who were in Saul’s army. While he was there, he was afforded the opportunity to hear Goliath make his repeated challenge. David inquired what would be done for the man who accepted the challenge and fought the giant to victory. He spoke of taking away the reproach from Israel that had arisen by this giant who defied the armies of the living God.
Eliab, David’s older brother, heard David making such remarks and rebuked him telling him he should return home and tend “those few sheep in the wilderness.” He accused David of having come just to see the battle.
Bible students know well the series of events that followed. David was taken to Saul and after some discussion David was allowed to go meet the giant. Saul offered David his armor but David refused it. He took five smooth stones and his sling. Upon approaching Goliath the giant cursed and ridiculed him, boasting how he would give David’s flesh to the fowls. But David responded, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (First Samuel 17: 45,46).
The outcome is well known. David finally beheaded the giant, Israel pursued the Philistines and a great victory was won for Israel that day. But our study is not to simply recount these events, but center our attention on another thought suggested in the course of events.
When David was taken to Saul as one who volunteered to fight the giant, Saul would have denied him that opportunity on the basis, “Thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (First Samuel 17: 33). What preparation did David have for such an undertaking? So much was at stake and the lad was untried with the implements of war.
Being too young is often reason enough not to grant youth to do many things. They should not be expected to discharge adult duties while so immature and inexperienced. It is unfair to them and to others that may have to depend on their performance. But was David without preparation for this encounter? Our ability to meet the foes of life depends how well prepared we are. Battles are lost or won in the preparation stage. Games played on the court or field are in a real sense decided in practice sessions. But our text suggests three great battles David had fought and won prior to meeting Goliath that equipped him for this supreme moment.
Battle of Self
David had won the battle over self. He had self-control and self-confidence, but was not arrogant nor egotistical. He could control his temper under trying and provocative circumstances. He did not allow the ridicule and provocation from his older brother, Eliab, to destroy his confidence nor provoke him to rage. He did not lose his composure when harsh words were thrown at him by the giant. One who was filled with pride, a show-off, with more talk than substance, quick to fly into rage and anger, would have been a misfit for this crucial time. He was neither intimidated, nor did he strut for the applause from others.
When his brother would have stopped him, he simply reasoned, “What have I done?” he argued, “Is there not a cause?” None could deny that there was a cause. Somebody needed to do something and David merely recognized that. So he persisted in his inquires.
Standing before Goliath he did not cast aside caution and wisdom, but kept a sober and cool head about him, controlling righteous indignation, and did not allow passion to blur his judgment and vision. His hand was steady and his mind unclouded as his vision was clear. He had charge of himself. This is a mark of genuine maturity whether exhibited by the young or old.
Battle of Fear
David had also conquered the battle of fear. “Let no man’s heart fail because of him,” said David. Everyone else was afraid, but not David. There was a reason for his courage. He was not indifferent to the power of Goliath. He did not underestimate nor minimize his enemy. But he was not frightened by him. He had faced danger and possible death before this.
While a shepherd lad tending his sheep a lion and a bear had attacked his sheep. Unlike a mere hireling he rose to the occasion, recovered the sheep and killed the intruding beasts. He knew what it was to risk his life in the line of duty. He knew how to respond when duty called. While cowards cannot be trusted and are likely to cut and run, David knew that to die while doing what needs to be done is victory even if apparent defeat follows. To preserve oneself and neglect duty was worse than death to David. His actions are akin to the words of Jesus. “If any man will come after me. let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever shall save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9: 23,24). His courage was not arrogance, but a trait of character he had developed earlier that made him ready to meet Goliath.
Battle of Unbelief
David had also conquered the battle of unbelief. “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, shall deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” What a great expression of faith in God! He gave the credit for his former successes to God. David was not relying upon himself, his skill with the sling or his own confidence. He had relied on God in times past and he was doing the same this time. He had the attitude of Paul, “I can do all things through him that strengtheneth me.” The reason he had been able to win the battle over self and fear was because he had faith in God. As Paul wrote, “If the Lord be for us, who can be against us.?”
Cannot we see that this historical record has many practical lessons for each of us today? We have our own challenges and “Goliaths” in life. There are many things that threaten our peace, happiness, stability, security, purity and faith. We are beset with temptations on every hand. No persons, especially those that love God, are ever free from the constant pressure from Satan to conform to the world, commit sin and “go along to get along.” Peter warned of the devil’s mission in First Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The devil is a far more potent foe against us than Goliath was against David. Goliath could only take David’s physical life. The devil can bring us spiritual death. We must be prepared to do battle.
Shall we learn that “with God, we can”? Will we learn to control self, often our worst enemy and weakness? Shall we muster bravery rather than fear, knowing that every temptation has a way of escape because God has provided it for His people (First Corinthians 10:13)? Shall we not remember that temptation is not just an opportunity to sin but also an opportunity to grow by not yielding to it?
With control of mind and temper, having self-confidence with courage, and with faith in God that undergirds it all, no “Goliath” will make us panic into dismay that characterized most of Israel in the long ago. Rather, we shall be like David even when we have what may seem to be inadequate weapons and without the armor of human construction. We will be able to fight the good fight of faith to eternal victory.
1. What need did David observe?
2. How did Saul consider him at first? Why did he think that way?
3. How did his brothers regard his questions?
4. In what ways was David prepared for this battle?
5. Are there tasks young people ought not attempt? Give reasons for your answer.
6. Are there tasks they can perform? Name some.