Summary: David and Saul faced the same giant obstacle to leadership, but only David revealed Biblical manhood.
Goliath’s had no idea what he was asking for when he bellowed like an out of tune tuba: “GIVE ME A MAN!”
Wayne Grudem and John Piper identified and addressed a problem in leadership back in 1991 which is still relevant:
“A controversy of major proportions has spread through the church. It began over 20 years ago in society at large. Sense then an avalanche of feminist literature has argued that there need be no difference between men’s and women’s, indeed, that to support gender-based role differences is unjust discrimination. Within evangelical Christianity, the counterpart to this movement has been the increasing tendency to oppose any unique leadership role for men in the home and the church” (John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).
With this controversy over male leadership, some questions need to be answered:
What is Biblical manhood? What is masculinity? Who is a man? What is a man? When does a boy become a man? This last question is pertinent to our story in 1 Samuel 17 because it could be described as shepherd boy challenging a veteran soldier in combat.
1. A boy does not become a man necessarily at age 18 or 21. David in the story before us is a young teen acting manly.
2. A boy does not become a man when he reaches a certain physique. David was an underdeveloped youth. Saul was head and shoulders taller than everyone and he was no man in the biblical sense.
3. A boy does not become a man when he gets a title. Saul had the title “King” but he was not kingly.
4. A boy becomes a man when he begins to assert spiritual influence according to our model in David.
Whether Goliath knew it or not, he communicated through his speech, “Give me a man,” the theme of 1 and 2 Samuel. This is a characteristic of narratives. In 1 Samuel 1:8, Elkanah spoke the theme of barrenness in chapter 1 in his dialogue to Hannah in 1: 8. In the Ark of the Covenant Narrative (1 Samuel 4-7), the theme is announced in the first words in 4:3. Sometimes the author will use the narrative to prepare us to hear the theme through the dialogue of a Bible character.
God sovereignly raises up leaders. In 1 and 2 Samuel, God raised up three men:
1. Samuel in chapters 1-7. The Transition to Leadership
2. Saul in chapters 8-15. The Tragedy of Leadership
3. David in chapters 16-2 Samuel. The Triumph and Trouble of Leadership
In chapter 17, two men, Saul and David, confront the same test of leadership, Goliath, but only one shows true manhood.
1. Saul shows us What Leadership and Manhood are NOT in 17:1-11.
Israel and the Philistines have arrayed their armies for battle. The Philistine giant warrior swaggers out. Chuck Swindol said that Goliath was like the cross-eyed discus thrower. He did not set any records but he sure kept the fans awake.
Physical descriptions in Biblical narratives are rare. The reason for this lack of interest in a person’s image was clearly stated by the Lord to Samuel when he was about to choose the next king of Israel, Eliab, based on physical appearance in 16:7. Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, was the second edition of Saul. When someone is physically portrayed like Goliath in a Biblical narrative, there is a significant reason. Goliath was 9 feet 9 inches tall. He would have dwarfed Shaquille O’Neal. Who on Israel’s side was more like Goliath in height and should have fought him? King Saul who was “from his shoulders and upward higher than any of the people” (1 Sam 9:2). This is the significant reason for these two rare physical descriptions.
But Saul had lost God’s power (16:14) because of his sins recorded in 1 Samuel 13-15 and was too cowardly to fight Goliath.
Instead of fighting Goliath, Saul ran from his enemy and influenced all of his army to retreat in defeat (17:11).
Some men, even believers, spend their entire lives running from problems instead of confronting them. Things get rocky in the marriage and they run. The boss is not perfect at work and they run. There is a disagreement at church and they run.
2. David shows us What Leadership and Manhood Are in 17:12-52.
David faced the same problem but acted manly. David had prepared ahead of time for this problem. David mans up. David the teenager models leadership.
A. Leaders cultivate a relationship with the Lord in private (17:11-30).
1. Before David faced a giant on the battlefield, he had been worshiping the Lord with his harp as he tended sheep. David got into the royal court because of his skill and reputation as a harpist (16:18; 17:15). There is a scene change in 17:15. David who had been in the royal court of Saul now goes back to sheepfold at home.