Have you ever heard the story of David and Goliath? That’s exactly what I thought – everybody has heard this story. Christians have heard this story since they were children. Even non-Christians have heard this story. It’s inspiring, about an average David standing up to a giant. We all know this story.
They even made a cartoon about it, a boy named Davey and his talking dog Goliath. Only Davey could hear the dog talk, so I sort of wonder whether Davey was just hearing voices. Fun facts about this series, it ran on television from 1960 to 1965, although several specials were made all the way through 2004. The series was created by the same guy that created Gumby, and was produced by the Lutheran Church of America.
Perhaps during our study today, we can learn some new insights about this famous battle.
Let’s take a look at David first. You know, in my early Christian days, I was always amazed at the number of people named David in the bible. There was David and Goliath, David and Bathsheba, David the man after God’s own heart, Jesus from the line of David… it wasn’t until I actually read 1st and 2nd Samuel that I realized they were all the same David.
Like this sculpture of David by Michelangelo. I had seen picture of this sculpture over the years, and then I was blessed to work in Florence Italy briefly a few years back. Most people will see the replica of the stature outside in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, but the original is inside the Galleria dell’Accademia. It was only when I was reading the history of the sculpture that I realized David is holding a sling over his shoulder, and this is the same David as the David and Goliath.
Which is probably why Goliath was defeated so easily. Goliath was probably thinking, “Hey, this guy that came out to fight me is naked as a jaybird! What does he think he’s doing?” ***thwaaack****
In our study of 1 Samuel 17 today, David is still a young boy. He looks like this picture of David by Michelangelo. Ok, he probably doesn’t, the Renaissance artists weren’t exactly known for being authentic when depicting figures from the bible. Last week, Theresa taught us how Samuel was in communion with God, and almost selected Eliab, the oldest son of Jesse, but the Lord told Samuel that the Lord will look to a man’s heart, and not his outward appearance. Then Samuel interviewed all the remaining sons and finally had to send for the youngest, David, from the field where he had been attending sheep. The Lord confirmed to Samuel that the Lord had chosen David to be the future king of Israel, and it says in 1 Samuel 16:13 that Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers. That’s an important statement and we’ll discuss this shortly.
You might also remember from 2 weeks back that Saul, the current King of Israel, had a son Jonathan. Saul put Jonathan in charge of 1000 men, and then Jonathan attacked a Philistine outpost, which really ticked off the Philistines, and the Philistines have decided to eliminate the Jews from the land.
So at the beginning of 1 Samuel 17, the Philistines have arrived. Verses 1-3,
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
Now, even though the Philistine army outnumbered the Israelites, the Israelites had chosen a good defensive position for their camp. The Philistines would have to fight uphill against the Israelites. So the Philistines stopped at one side of the valley, and the Israelites at the other side of the valley. Stalemate, neither side wanting to fight uphill.
So the Philistines selected a champion named Goliath. I’m going to use the Contemporary English Version for this verse because all the sheckels and cubits are translated into measurement that make sense in Texas. 1 Samuel 17:4-7,
The Philistine army had a hero named Goliath who was from the town of Gath and was over nine feet tall. He wore a bronze helmet and had bronze armor to protect his chest and legs. The chest armor alone weighed about one hundred twenty-five pounds. He carried a bronze sword strapped on his back, and his spear was so big that the iron spearhead alone weighed more than fifteen pounds. A soldier always walked in front of Goliath to carry his shield.
This was a big guy, a very big, strong guy. This is JJ Watt on steroids. His armor and weapon weighed at least 140 pounds. Since there was a standoff between the two armies, Goliath would come and stand in the Valley of Elah and taunt the Israelites. Goliath challenged the Israelites to find somebody to fight him, winner take all. It says in verse 11 that Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. This giant of a man is just too big and too strong to fight.
And this goes on for 40 days, every day a fresh taunt from Goliath. Goliath would say, verses 8- 11:
Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
Goliath would continue with taunts like,
- You’re such a weakling. You need to get two friends to help you change your mind.
- When they were giving out heads, you thought they said beds, and you said “I’d like something soft.”
- Your armpits smell so bad your teacher gave you an A for not raising your hand.
Ok, those taunts are funny, but I want to reflect a moment here. We all face giants in our lives, a problem that is just too big to overcome. A disrespectful kid. An abusive coworker. A bill collector. The loss of a job. In Theresa’s case, she shared her giant with us, multiple myeloma and the resulting bone lesions. These giants stand between us and our goals, and they taunt us every day. And the next day. And the next day.
The response of the Israelites was to shake with fear. Now, I’m no motivational speaker and I don’t have answers for all of life’s problems, but “shaking with fear” isn’t exactly a solution, is it? Yet, we all do it in the face of our giants.
We’ve heard David was a man after God’s own heart, and David is going to enter our story now. David’s 3 oldest brothers have followed Saul off to war and are facing the Philistines. I don’t know what brothers 4-7 were doing, the scripture is silent, but the youngest, David is tending sheep. No doubt Jesse is worried about his older sons, so he packs a picnic basket of bread and cheese, gives it to David and says, “take this to your brothers and bring back to me word of how they are doing.” Let’s read verses 20-24,
Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
When I first read these verses, I saw this scene in my head. David arriving at the battle front just as Goliath comes out to taunt them again. David with his picnic basket dropping off the bread and cheese, all the Israelites quaking with fear. But there’s more in these verses; remember, these are the actions of a man after God’s own heart.
First of all, David is being obedient. His father asked him to do something, so David took care of his responsibilities, making sure the sheep were cared for, grabbing the supplies and delivering a basket of goodies to grandmother’s house, deep in the woods. The giant has come out to fight, but not David. David is just trying to be obedient to what has been asked of him. When we are facing giants in our lives, just continuing with our lives bravely and being obedient is a suitable offense.
David is also serving others, he’s brought food for his brothers that are fighting. Or, actually, his brothers are not fighting, they’re cowering, but you know what I mean.
And finally, I noticed that line that says, “David left his things with the keeper of supplies.” In other words, David left his baggage behind. Carrying around old baggage is not helpful when getting ready to face our giants.
IV. Facing Our Giants
There are many reasons given to David next why he should fail when facing the giant. First is the discouragement from others in verse 25,
Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”
Others around you may say, “Of course you’re going to fail. It’s just too hard. There are too many obstacles. Just give up and give in, you can’t win.” Let’s face it, the world can be a discouraging place. Even well-meaning Christians can be discouraging as long as they preface their discouragement with “Bless your heart.” “Bless your heart, having to deal with a coworker like that. You should just quit.”
We should be attentive to our own words and be careful what we say to somebody going through tough times so that we do not discourage. I love the way Hebrews 3:13 admonishes us,
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today.”
What day is it? Yes, it’s today, again. Seems like every day is “today,” now that I think about it. What is David’s response? Verse 26,
David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
What kind of unholy sin dares to stand up to the Living God? Or as Romans 8:31 says,
If God is for us, who can be against us?
When we fear our giants, we demonstrate that we have little faith in our God. We see a big giant, and think our little god can’t handle it. We see a storm and complain how big the storm is instead of telling the storm how big our God is. David is astounded that this uncircumcised Philistine is still standing in the Land of Israel.
Remember David’s brothers? Samuel anointed David as the future king of Israel in front of David’s brothers, yet David’s brothers have no faith in the Lord acting through David. They belittle him. Verse 28 says,
When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
But what day is it? It is today, the day the Lord hath made. We should rejoice and be glad in it, and we should encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today.
Saul, the current king of Israel, hears of David’s faith and sends for him, and David tells Saul that David will answer the challenge of Goliath. More discouragement follows, for Saul tells David that the battle is hopeless, Goliath is going to win because he’s more experienced and David is just a boy. But David knows the Lord has equipped him for this battle. He tells Saul in verse 34-37,
But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
David’s God is bigger than the storm. What does David have to fight Goliath? David is a young sheepherder, not a warrior, but the Lord has been equipping David for this battle. David has protected his flock from lions and tiger and bears (oh my), and the Lord has protected him. That same strength from the Lord will protect him now.
Your giant may also seem too big for you to handle. And you may be surrounded by people that tell you that the battle is hopeless. But the Lord does not stand idly by to watch His children fail. The Lord is my banner, Jehovah Nissi. The Lord is Almighty and All-Sufficient, El Shaddai. There is no battle bigger than the Lord, and He has been with you your entire life, through your triumphs and through your failures, through your joy and through your sorrows. And the Lord has brought you to today to face your giant and he has spent a lifetime equipping you. Who is this uncircumcised Philistine in your life that should defy the army of the Living God. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
I suppose Saul sees the strength in David, or he just wants the battle to end, I’m not sure. Saul continues in verse 37-38,
Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
If it’s not bad enough that others around us discourage us and tell us that the battle is lost, when it’s clear you’re going to fight anyway, they then try to load their baggage on us and weigh us down. David is a boy; Saul was a king and a warrior. Saul is saying to David, look, you cannot win, but if you’re going to fight, you need to be weighed down with all the same baggage that made me afraid. David immediately recognizes the problem, one that cannot be solved by wearing heavy, unfamiliar armor. Remember, when we face our giants, the battle belongs to the Lord, and the Lord has equipped us for today. We do not need to place our trust in man-made bronze helmets. We need to place our trust in Almighty, all-powerful Jehovah God.
“I cannot go in these,” David said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
Win or lose, David is going to battle with the tools that God has already given him. There is truth and wisdom listening to the advice of others, but once you have considered all the options and you have prayed to our father in heaven, God has equipped you for exactly the giant you are facing. Don’t let others, no matter how helpful they are trying to be, load you down with weight. Don’t let them tell you that you need to pray more, or tithe more, or give more, or serve more. Let the Lord tell you what He desires, and He will equip you to fight the battle.
Goliath, the giant facing Daniel, curses and discourages him again, in verse 41-43,
Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”
Your giant doesn’t respect you, either, by the way. But it matters not, if the Lord is on your side. David responds with what I think is one of the greatest declarations of faith I have ever heard in verses 45-47,
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
David took his sling, fitted it with a single smooth stone, slung it and killed the Philistine giant. For David knew that that battle wasn’t his alone. David knew the giant wasn’t standing there against God’s will. David knew the giant was not invincible. David knew the Lord was with him, and would equip him as necessary. David’s God was bigger, far far bigger, than any giant the Philistines could put in front of him.
How is your giant looking now? Does it still loom huge in front of you, taunting you, calling you names, discouraging you? David teaches us that our giants are not invincible and cannot defeat us. As David was obedient in caring for his sheep, we should continue to be obedient in caring for those God has place in our path. As David was serving others, we too should continue to do the Lord’s work as He leads in our lives. And rather than let taunts discourage us or let others weigh us down with unnecessary baggage, like David left his baggage with the keeper of supplies, we can leave our baggage at the feet of Jesus. And when the devil curses us, we can stand firm so that all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give our giants into our hands. For we know the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, we put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand.
We don’t tell our God how big our giant is. God knows.
We tell the giant how big our God is.
To God be the glory.