Summary: David knows the Philistine army is subject to the power of God. In faith he offers to face the giant in battle with God’s armor.
An Earthy Spirituality~the life of King David
“David & Goliath”, I Samuel 17 -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
“It is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s,” vs 47
We all have giants to battle, and in God’s strength we find courage to face them. We may regard this as a children’s story, but there is a very grown-up message in this familiar tale of the underdog and the bully.
The Philistine army was Israel’s greatest threat to national security, embodied in their warrior Goliath. At the Valley of Elah Israel’s future seemed to hang in the balance. The two armies assembled across from each other on opposite sides of what appeared to be the valley of the shadow of death. They’d reached a stalemate; neither side wants to leave the advantage of their high ground and be vulnerable to attack. But one Philistine enters the no-man’s-land to challenge Israel.
In the days of the Exodus, the people of God were reluctant to enter the Promised Land because of reports of giants in the area. They now come face-to-face with one, and are terrified. Scholars differ as to how tall Goliath was; most put his height between 7 and 9 feet. Definitely a candidate for the NBA.
Goliath was a formidable foe, enormous and overpowering--brandishing a long sword, and with a shield bearer for extra protection. His armor alone weighed more than David. He curses and taunts the anxious Israelites. He defies God. The description of Goliath reminds us of someone else. Saul is described as “head and shoulders above the rest” of most men; he is the most obvious choice to do battle with the giant. But Saul hesitates, appearing immobilized and helpless. He is all too willing to loan his armor to David, since he’s not prepared to use it himself. Eugene Peterson says that “Saul is incapacitated with Goliath-sickness…are we going to be shaped by our fears of Goliath or by God?”
Here’s how I perceive the situation: Saul is fearful, Israel is demoralized, the Philistines are arrogant, Goliath is brutal, Eliab is disdainful, and David is bold. He is also the only one in touch with reality that day. He is also wondering--why is no one accepting this challenge to fight?
When David looks upon this oversized Philistine, he is not impressed by Goliath’s armor, his stature, nor his curses. David sees a man and an army standing in defiance--not just of his people--but of God. David is fighting as the seed of Abraham in a covenantal battle; God promised Abraham to curse those who curse His people…and so by cursing Israel, Goliath has signed his death certificate. David knows the Philistine army is subject to the power of God. In faith he offers to face the giant in battle.
After some hesitation, Saul allows David to accept Goliath’s challenge, and tries to assist. It’s been suggested that Saul offered David his royal armor to make it appear that he defeated Goliath; but the gear doesn’t fit, and David doesn’t need it anyway. When we face opposition in life, or some kind of personal battle, we may first rely on our talent or training, or seek someone’s advice; we may pile on so much help that, like David, we can’t move. We then have to let go and trust in God’s resources. David walks away from Saul’s conventional, protective gear. “Saul’s armor” has become a symbol for facing life’s challenges with human means. We use Saul’s armor when we trust our natural resources instead of divine enablement. What clutter in our lives do we need to discard? David knows he can’t fight Saul’s battle in Saul’s way. David has put on the “full armor of God” (Eph 6:11).
David has two motivators that remove his fear: God’s might, and a determination to defend the honor of God’s Name. David is indignant; he ignores his older brother’s disapproval and takes action. David and Eliab see the situation differently. David is a civilian surrounded by professional soldiers, but he’s the only one willing to engage the enemy. Proverbs 28:1 states, “the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
David has learned to see life from God’s perspective; he knows that the Lord is the Source of deliverance; he knows what others do not. He seems impervious to the danger and proclaims confidently in verse 47, “It is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s.” This should be our motto whenever we face opposition. On the surface we may perceive Goliath as massive and David as insignificant, even naive, but that’s because we’re fixed on “outward appearance” (16:7).
David runs to confront Goliath, and the giant is shocked, even offended that such a puny warrior would dare meet him in battle. Is this some kind of joke? The giant threatens to kill David, dishonor his corpse and deny him an honorable burial. The Message, a modern translation, has Goliath saying, “Come on, I’ll make roadkill of you for the buzzards. I’ll turn you into a tasty morsel for the field mice.” David’s response is that Goliath is trusting in his own ability, but no weapons of warfare can hope to compete with divine power and heavenly armor. Goliath fails to see that in fighting David, he is fighting Almighty God.