Posted On July 5, 2009
Most of us grew up knowing the story of David and Goliath. Big scary dude versus kid. Kid wins. Yay. Inspiring for the underdog, challenging (and maybe a little frightening) for the tough guy.
But there’s so much more to the story. I’ve recently been reading through 1 Samuel, and last night two verses really stuck out at me in the story of David and Goliath (which is recorded in 1 Samuel 17,) specifically, verses 38 and 39, “Then Saul gave David his own armor – a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again.”
Goliath is a big guy, even by today’s standards. We’re told in verse 4 that he was around 9′ 8” tall. (In comparison, the world’s tallest man in medical history, Robert Wadlow, was only 8′ 11” tall.) His armor was just as impressive – the coat of bronze mail he wore weighed in at 125 pounds, his spear had a shaft around 2 1/2” thick and an iron tip weighing 15 pounds. Not to mention his bronze javelin, leg armor, and shield.
Every day, he would come to the front of the battle line and mock the Israelites and their God. When King Saul and the Israelite army heard this, they were “terrified and deeply shaken.” (v. 11) This went on for 40 days.
David was the youngest of eight sons of a man named Jesse. His three oldest brothers were already in the Israelite army, and one day Jesse had David take some food to his brothers on the battle lines. When David arrived there, he heard Goliath’s boastful taunts against Israel and defiance of God, and asked why he was allowed to continue saying such things. When David’s brother heard him asking this, he was very discouraging to him. When King Saul heard about David’s questions, he summoned him.
David offered to stand and fight Goliath, at which point Saul also scoffed at David. However, David persisted. Even though he was young, David had shepherded his dad’s sheep and goats, and whenever a lion or bear would try to make off with one of the lambs, he would fight the animal to save the lamb. He knew that just as God had protected him from the wild animals, He would protect him from Goliath, who was not just trying to kill an animal, but was defying the armies of God.
Finally, Saul consented to allow David to fight Goliath, and gave him his blessing. He then gave David his own helmet, coat of mail, and sword. David tried to see what it was like wearing Saul’s armor and found that it encumbered more than aided him, so he took them back off again.
David picked up a few smooth stones, then went to face Goliath, knowing that God would be with him. As he approached, Goliath mocked and cursed David. Still, David did not back down, knowing that God was leading him through this. As Goliath moved forward to attack, David ran out to meet him, reached into his bag and picked out a stone, hurled it with his sling, and hit Goliath in the forehead. And as we know, Goliath was killed and Israel defeated the Philistines.
Is that all there is to the story? Hardly. Many of us have come up against daunting situations in our lives. While we may not physically stand before a giant, our situations can seem just as impossible. Whether it’s problems with finances, relationships, health, or something entirely different, the situations we encounter can seem just like Goliath to us.
There are some important things we can take note of from David’s encounter with Goliath.
First, David was not important. He was the youngest brother, and obviously not well-respected because of his age and his position in the family. However, despite his age and position, God was actively preparing David for what lay in store for him later in life. Even as David’s brothers went off to the big city to fight in the king’s army, he was left at home tending sheep. But through that seemingly menial task, God was preparing him for the future. As David defended his lambs from the wild animals that sought to devour them, God was teaching David courage and dependence on Him, so that He could use David to protect His flock (namely, Israel,) from the enemies that sought to devour them.
Secondly, David knew his calling, and was quick to act on what He was being called to do. We don’t read of David questioning and waiting and delaying in fighting Goliath. Instead, he was quick to offer to fight him. When David faced Goliath in battle, as Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him (v. 48.) He didn’t meander. He didn’t jog. He ran. He knew that just as God had protected him as he guarded his sheep, He would also protect him as he stood up for the people of God and His name.
Third, David didn’t fold under the pressure of discouraging remarks from his brother and the king. Instead, he persisted (vv. 30, 34.) He didn’t succumb to the mockery of Goliath, instead he stood with the strength of God (vs. 45.) It’s amazing how many times we may know that God has called us to do something, but the stuff of life (comments of others, our own doubts, etc.) snuffs out the passion that God has put in our hearts.
David knew where his strength came from. “The Lord who rescued me…” (v. 37a,) “I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of the armies of Israel…” (v. 45) Even though David had killed lions and bears, he did not derive his strength and assurance from his past victories. He knew that it was God who had protected him, and would continue to do so. He knew that since it was God who was calling him to do this, that God would give him the strength and the ability to do it.
David quickly dropped the baggage he was given. Even as King Saul blessed David, he handed him an encumbering weight in the guise of protection. What Saul had meant to keep David safe not only showed his lack of trust in God, but could very well have cost David his life, and as a result, Israel its freedom. Saul, in essence, said, “And may the Lord be with you,” (v. 37b) “but in case He isn’t…” At many points in our lives, we pick up or are given things that weigh us down. Unfortunately, too many of us hold onto those things we are given. While these may not be physical burdens such as armor, they can be things like harsh words, longings, frustrated hopes, postponed dreams, pressure from family and friends, etc. We come up with “plan b” and “plan c” “just in case.” We would do well to learn from how David dropped the burden as soon as he realized its weight – a weight he was not meant to carry.
I find verse 40 particularly interesting. Even though David is stepping out in faith and reliance on God, he still picks up 5 stones. Even though it only took one stone to kill Goliath, David had 4 extras with him. Why did he do this? Habit? In case he dropped one? In case he sneezed when he went to chuck it? I don’t know. But at the same time, it’s very encouraging to me that just as sometimes we need some extra reassurance when we face challenges in our lives that seem so incredibly daunting, David took a little bit of extra ammunition as he went to face his giant.
David is quick to give props to God. Notice the order of the wording in verse 46. “…the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you…” And again in verse 46b-47, “…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues His people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle…” David made sure that everyone involved knew that even though it was him who was chucking the stone, it was the Lord who was doing the actual fighting. David was merely allowing God to use him in the situation.
David saw the task he was given through to completion. He could have easily left well-enough alone. Goliath was on the ground after all. But rather than be like “Whew, glad that’s over,” David instead goes over to Goliath and cuts his head off. The follow-through can be very difficult for us sometimes. We feel better, so we stop taking the antibiotics. There is a fragile peace in our relationship, so we don’t push our luck trying to actually resolve the problem. The software seems to work, so we stop testing it. We are quick to declare victory over a problem, rather than making sure that the problem is actually resolved. And many times, doing so creates much larger problems down the road.
But, the most important thing by far that we can learn is God’s role in this situation. He knew that the Philistines would muster up an army and cause problems for His people down the road. He knew that their king and army would be too dependent on their own strength and “knowledge” to fight. So, he prepared David. As David went through the mundane tasks of a shepherds’ life, He brought him into situations that forced him to rely on God. He taught David patience, determination, bravery, and courage. He taught David how to fight, and when to fight. He taught David how to overcome impossible odds through His strength. And as a result, David became a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14.)
We would be wise to learn from and follow David’s example when facing our own Goliath’s.