Summary: There are several observations we can make about David in this conflict
(I attended a clergy roundtable sponsored by the Ockenga Institute of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where we discussed this passage, and the following sermon is more of a group effort, our collective thoughts on the various strengths David drew from)
We’re quite familiar with the battle between David and Goliath. We all have giants to battle, and God has uniquely equipped us to face them.
While preaching through the life of David I covered this passage, and my intent is not to talk about the event per se, but to examine what was going on inside of David. There are several observations we can make about David in this conflict…
1. We start with his self-awareness. David was anointed by the prophet Samuel and he knew his place in history. He knew God’s hand was on him, and so he was patiently waiting. He wasn’t there yet, he hadn’t arrived, but he was confident in God’s Providence. He would get several opportunities to seize the throne by force, but he waited, trusting in God’s timing.
2. David heard what was going on with discernment. He assessed the enemy situation and saw clearly the threat posed to Israel. The Philistines were powerful, but he saw beyond their bluster to their vulnerability. David was wise beyond his years. He trusted in God to win this battle. Israel’s unbelief, in contrast, seems odd, out of place.
3. David was his own person…in two ways:
-First of all, he wasn’t swayed by his older brother’s criticism. Eliab misread David’s motives and scolded him, telling him to return to his sheep. David wasn’t there to watch and he wasn’t about to run back home when the future of Israel was on the line. Eliab the “mighty warrior” mocks his younger brother, yet where is he? Challenging Goliath? No, like everyone else he’s cowering in his tent.
-David was also his own person by refusing Saul’s armor. He tried it on and realized, “This isn’t me.” David knew who he was. He wasn’t going to try to be something he’s not. “Saul’s armor” has become a symbol for facing life’s challenges with human means. We use Saul’s armor when we trust our own, limited resources instead of divine enablement. You can’t take someone else’s stuff and make it work for you…also, had David used Saul’s armor, the king would’ve taken some of the credit.
4. David saw the big picture: Goliath wasn’t merely threatening the national security of Israel; He was defying God. This was a spiritual battle. The integrity of the nation was at stake. God’s reputation was at stake. David wasn’t about to stand idly by and let this Philistine blaspheme and discredit the faith of Abraham. To stand by and do nothing is cowardly.
5. David’s past empowered the present. Based on his past experience, David knew the challenge he faced. He had tangled with wild animals while protecting his flock, and he knew God’s faithfulness. The Lord has been his strong arm, his might, and God would be with him now. When we face conflict, when we suffer loss, whatever our trials are, our memory of how God has helped us in the past gives us confidence for the future.
6. David wasn’t swayed by reward. His objective wasn’t to gain fame or fortune from battle but to defeat the enemy. Anyone who would fight merely for reward is a mercenary. There was a higher cause that made the prospect of the king’s reward insignificant. David was a man of honor who wanted to uphold the nation’s honor. The mission led him, not the prize. We serve, not for reward, but out of love and commitment to the cause.
7. David envisioned the ultimate result from battle--the world would know beyond doubt that there’s a God in Israel. He fought for the glory of God, and gave God the credit for his victory. And the word would go out that it obviously wasn’t by human effort that a giant was defeated.
8. David was single-minded…he saw what he had to do and focused on his objective. Scripture tells us that “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). There was no need for discussion. While David was gathering stones for his slingshot, some bureaucrat member of Saul’s staff was preparing a PowerPoint briefing to consider options!
9. David was gutsy and bold; he didn’t hesitate to speak out, to confront the foe. Size didn’t matter. The diminutive David knew that God would empower him. Courage stems from faith. I find it interesting that in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings it is the smallest folk who seem to have the most courage--the hobbits and the dwarves…and in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books it is the tiny mouse Reepicheep, who is the most courageous of all the Narnians.