In the last essay we studied 1 Samuel 16, in which we saw how the Lord handled Saul’s rejection as king. He did not turn Saul out immediately. Rather he chose to permit things to play out naturally, which seems to be his preferred way of dealing with human situations. Saul reigned until his death. But in the meantime, the Lord commanded Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the new king. And so Samuel anointed David as the next king of Israel. But more important than the anointing with oil was the anointing of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.”
All right, today we are studying 1 Samuel 17, which contains the story of David and Goliath. The account begins by telling us that the Philistines had gathered for battle against Israel (v. 1). They were camped on the slope of one mountain; and Israel was camped on the slope of another, opposite mountain, with the Elah valley in between (vv. 3, 19).
And twice every day a champion of the Philistines named Goliath would step forth and issue a challenge to Israel (vv. 4, 16). Now Goliath was an imposing figure. He was nine foot six, a huge man—literally a giant (v. 4)! And he had armor and weapons as large as he was.
So twice per day Goliath would call out to Israel, in effect, “Haven’t you got a man over there?” “Choose a man from among yourselves to come and fight me. If he can win, we Philistines will become servants of Israel. But if I win, you will have to be our servants” (vv. 8-10). This struck fear into Israel, including king Saul (v.11).
David’s three oldest brothers were part of Saul’s army (v. 13), but David who was the youngest had stayed home to tend the family’s sheep. At that time David apparently was going back and forth between Saul’s court and his home, according to Saul’s mental condition (v. 15).
One day, David’s father Jesse sent David to his brothers to take them some food and to see how they were doing (vv. 17-18). While David was visiting with his brothers, Goliath came out to do his twice-daily taunt; and David heard him (vv. 22-23). David was shocked. “Who is this guy?” he asked those near to him: “who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God” (v.26)?
What David had said was reported to king Saul; and Saul called David in to talk (v. 31). David was rather cocky. He told Saul, “Don’t have a heart attack over Goliath. I can take care of him.” Literally he said “Let no one’s heart fail because of him.” And he offered to fight the giant (v. 32).
Of course Saul protested. “You can’t fight Goliath. You are just a boy; and he has been a warrior all of his life” (v. 33). But David had an answer. “I have killed lions and bears defending my father’s sheep; and this giant is no more of a threat than those. Moreover he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and the bear, will save me from the Philistine” (vv. 34-37)!
Whoa! Saul was deeply impressed with David’s faith, confidence and zeal. And so he said, “Go, and may the Lord be with you” (v. 37). Saul offered his sword and armor to David; but it was too awkward for David who was not used to wearing armor, so he removed it (vv. 38-39). Instead he selected five smooth stones for his sling, took up his staff, and approached Goliath (v. 40).
Goliath was insulted. “Am I a dog,” he said. “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?”—apparently referring to David’s staff (vv. 42-43) “Come on,” he said. “I’ll feed your flesh to the birds and the wild animals” (v. 44).
But David was defiant. “Yes, you have a sword, a spear and a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts. . . . This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. . . . so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (vv. 45-46).
Wow! Next David took one of the stones he had selected, placed it in his sling and flung it at Goliath. It hit him right on the forehead and sunk into his skull bringing him down (vv. 48-49). Some years ago, when a colleague and I took a group of students to Israel, on a visit to the national museum we saw an exhibition of sling stones from those ancient times. We were amazed to see the size of them. They were as large as baseballs. No wonder it brought Goliath down.
Once Goliath was down, David ran to him, took Goliath’s sword, and cut off his head, as he had said he would. That surprising turn of events struck fear into the Philistines; and they fled the field with the Israelites in hot pursuit (vv. 51-54). And it became a day of great victory for Israel.
All right, that is the story. And an exciting story it is. Now then, I want to draw some application from it. To begin, I want to note three characteristics of David. First, David had an attitude. Frequently in our culture, when we say someone has an attitude, we mean it as a negative thing. That is, we are thinking of a bad attitude. But David had a good attitude.
Israel’s king and army had been cowering in fear before Goliath for weeks (v. 16). But when David came on the scene, his first thought was, “Who does this guy think he is to defy the army of the living God!” David had an attitude!
The second characteristic is an obvious one. David had courage. He not only volunteered to fight Goliath, he really believed he could take him. And it was not a false courage. David had fought and killed lions and bears while defending his father’s sheep; and he didn’t see Goliath as any more dangerous than they (vv. 32-38).
The third characteristic also is rather obvious, but quite important. David was a man of faith. That was evident in David’s attitude already discussed. He couldn’t believe that an uncircumcised Philistine could defy the army of the living God—not because the army was so formidable, but because they were the army of the living God (v. 36)! But it shows at other points as well.
For example, when David approached Goliath, he did so boldly, not because he considered himself a great warrior, but because he approached “in the name of the Lord of hosts” (v. 45). Thus we see the three characteristics of David. He was a man with a positive, confident attitude. He was a man of courage. And he was a man of faith.
Now then, with those three characteristics as a background, I want to point out three “M’s” in relation to the narrative. The first was David’s mission. That was important. David may not have had a written mission statement; but he had a clear mission. War tends to be like that. David’s mission was to kill Goliath. And he concentrated his attention on that task. Likewise it is crucial for us to identify our mission in the world. We need to have a clear idea of what it is that the Lord Jesus is calling us to do where we are. Otherwise we will not be the fruitful disciples that we ought to be.
David’s second “M” was his method. Not only did David have a clear mission—to kill Goliath—he had a suitable method for doing so. It is hard to overestimate the importance of this one. Notice that David did not try suddenly to become a mighty warrior, although those around him tried to lead him in that direction. David wasn’t trained as a warrior. There was no way he could defeat Goliath using weapons he wasn’t trained to use.
Instead David stayed within himself. He knew who and what he was. He was a shepherd skilled in the use of a sling and staff, not a warrior skilled in swordsmanship. Thus he chose the sling and staff as his weapons, because they were the weapons he knew how to use. They were the weapons with which he had killed lions and bears. So David had an appropriate method with which to fulfill his mission. Once again we need an appropriate method as well. It is extremely important for us to discover the ways in which the Lord has gifted us, so that we can fulfill our mission as Christians.
David had a third “M.” I could of placed this one first instead of last. David not only had a clear mission and an appropriate method for carrying out that mission, he also had a proper motive. In the end, this is the big one. None of what we do will be of use to God without proper motivation. And David had that proper motive. He wanted to honor God.
There is a problem associated with all of this, however. Any of us, when we are honest with ourselves, acknowledge that our motives tend to be mixed. We want to do everything to the glory of God, but selfish interests get in the way. David’s motives probably were not 100% pure either. But David’s primary motivation certainly was to honor God.
All right, we have seen three characteristics of David. He had an attitude that didn’t believe Goliath should be defying the army of God, no matter how big he was. David had the courage to take on a giant, just as he had taken on lions and bears. And he had faith in an all-powerful God. And we have seen three “M’s” in David’s conquest of Goliath. He had a clear mission; namely to kill Goliath. He had an appropriate method, one that was suited to who and what he was. And he had the proper motive. He wanted to honor and serve the Lord. May we be inspired to be as David was, and do as David did.