David, Goliath, and Us

David, Goliath, and Us

Author: Stan Guthrie
June 28, 2022

Everyone thinks they know the story of David and Goliath. I know I did. I was wrong. For those of you who slept through children’s Sunday school, let me briefly recap the particulars of this iconic story from 1 Samuel 17.

Saul was king in Israel. The pagan Philistines were tormenting and dominating God’s people, who had decided to fight back. The two armies were gathered in Judah’s long, shallow Valley of Elah (“valley of the terebinth”). Before the battle commenced, one side decided to do a little trash talking.

Emerging from the Philistine ranks was a massive figure named Goliath. While the name means to uncover, remove, or to go into exile, it has become synonymous in our day with “giant.” And indeed Goliath was a giant. According to the text, he was “six cubits and a span” tall. If each cubit, as believed, equals 18 inches and each span is nine, then Goliath stood about nine, feet, nine inches tall—a giant by any measure.

And this giant was supremely confident, willing to wager the outcome of the war based on single combat. “Why have you come out to draw up for battle?” the giant taunted. “Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”

Draft Kings no doubt would have made Goliath a prohibitive favorite, and, not surprisingly, the Israelites hesitated. Turning up the heat, Goliath continued, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” Scripture notes honestly that Saul and the Israelites were “dismayed and greatly afraid.” And who wouldn’t be? Goliath cast a huge shadow. This national humiliation went on for 40 days.

Yet that was only the beginning of this story. Enter the young shepherd, David, who was sent by his father, Jesse, to bring food to three of his older brothers, who were with the army—though, conspicuously, none had volunteered to fight the giant. Nerves were understandably frayed at this point. Eliab, upon seeing the runt of the family, accused David of being a busybody, fairly spitting out the words, “I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” (In providing a window to this incident of fraternal jealousy, Scripture again modestly displays its truthfulness.)

Yet David’s heart was inflamed, not by morbid curiosity, but by righteous indignation. Who was this “uncircumcised Philistine” to defy the armies of the living God? Informed that the one who slew the giant would win riches and the king’s favor, David stepped forward.

“Let no man’s heart fail because of him,” the lad said to Saul. “Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

Saul politely replied, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” Not to mention Goliath was a veritable mountain of a man. Saul, if nothing else, was merely being logical.

At this point, however, the story takes an unexpected turn. David doesn’t convince Saul with a winning smile or by quoting Scripture or telling him to have more faith. Instead, he tells the warrior king a story of how the Lord had brought him safely through similar trials while guarding his father’s sheep. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear,” David confidently noted, “will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” This was far from David’s first rodeo. And Saul acquiesced, putting the fate of his entire army in David’s hands.

In David’s case, the past was the key to the present. God had seen him through earlier challenges and was certainly big enough to see him through this one. After all, it was God’s honor at stake, not David’s.

The same goes for us when we face our own giants. Have we ever seen God deliver us from challenges in the past? Have we ever exercised our muscles of faith, only to see God’s faithful care? Has the Lord ever glorified Himself when we leaned upon Him? Then standing before a new giant, even the biggest, baddest giant in the valley, will not seem so frightening. This David did, and this we can do, too.

It’s an iron principle of life with God. Faith when exercised, tends to grow. As Jesus said, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance” (Matthew 13:12a). Let us, therefore, test our faith now in the smaller things so that we will be ready when our Goliath emerges from the ranks of darkness to taunt us and our God.

Another small detail in this story has caused me to stop and ponder. When Saul offered David his armor and weaponry, the young shepherd declined, for “I have not tested them.” David had been tested and was ready for the work that God had prepared for him (see Ephesians 2:10). The armor, however, had not been and was wisely left behind.

So, shirking the king’s mail, helmet, and sword, David went to the brook and chose “five smooth stones” for his sling, an ancient weapon. This was no child’s toy. A sling could fire a rock as fast as a speeding car today and hit a target with deadly accuracy. Goliath would not even know what hit him. He was a dead man walking.

But why five stones, when only one would be enough to fell the giant? After the first stone sank into the giant’s forehead, the four remained in the pouch, unused. Why? Maybe the young shepherd gathered five stones out of mere habit. But maybe it was that David didn’t know exactly how the battle would go. As far as I can tell, he hadn’t heard a voice from God. He had no way of knowing with absolute certainty that the first stone would find its mark. So he trusted God and brought along some extras.

How like us! Whether it’s a broken relationship, an illness, a job loss, or something else, rarely do we receive a divine roadmap on how to slay our new giant. We think we know, we step out in faith, we fire the rock, and we trust God to show up. And He will—but it’s never a bad idea to carry a few extras.

After all, the Christian life isn’t a children’s Sunday school class.


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