1 Samuel 17: Battle with the Giant

david-and-goliath1 Samuel 17 is perhaps the most famous chapter in the book, because it tells the story of David and Goliath. But well-known as it is, I still found some interesting gleanings from it.

One thing that struck me was verse 4, “The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.” In effect, both armies were at a stand-still: able to observe each other, but unwilling to be the first to make a move.

I thought about the times when I or someone I know has experienced conflict. Whether the conflict is within, as you struggle against the temptor, or without, as you struggle with someone else – you can’t win the battle by standing aloof from the enemy. You have to let go of your own pride and/or fear, and go “down to the valley” to resolve the conflict. It can be a humbling place, a vulnerable place. But you have to do it. Otherwise you’ll be at a standstill in your struggle or your relationship, or whatever it is you are dealing with. Someone has to make the first move – why not you?

When David shows up on the scene, his oldest brother Eliab speaks words of bitter anger to him. This was the first brother that God had passed over in the previous chapter, telling Samuel to look at the heart rather than the outward appearance. Here in this chapter we get a glimpse of that heart, as Eliab accuses David of being prideful and insolent – while it was more likely that his own heart was struggling with those things.

I look at my own life, and I see a bit of Eliab in myself. There is a tendency to want to put others down, as though somehow that will raise myself up. But it’s wrong to do so. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29).

And then I also found myself wondering, why did all 7 of David’s older brothers get passed over? What was in their hearts that God didn’t like? And then the question comes to me – would God choose me, or would He pass me over? Do I have a heart that God can use? Or is it too stiffened by pride and fear?

Oh, Lord – that you would break us! That we would be malleable in Your hands, O God! Free us from the chains that hold us back: the chains of pride and selfishness and fear. For we know that You resist the proud, but give grace to the humble. You have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Purify our hearts so that we may glorify You in our lives. Fill us with Your everlasting love so that we may share that love with others.

Unlike his older brothers, David was truly a man after God’s own heart. His indignation against Goliath was not merely a matter of national pride, but godly passion. Who is this heathen who dares to defy the people of the true and living God? If no one else is willing to fight, then David will step up to the challenge and defend his LORD!

Saul protests that David can’t possibly win against a mighty warrior who has at least twice as much experience as the young man. But David hearkens back to the stories of his past, when bears and lions came out against his father’s flock, and God delivered the beasts into his hand.

Do you realize the significance of what David does here?

All through 1 Samuel, we have seen over and over how Israel has forgotten her past. She forgets her mistakes, and so repeats them. She forgets how God has delivered her in the past, so she puts her trust in other things. But when faced with the impossible, David does not forget his past; nor does he put his trust in other things. He remembers how God has helped him before, and trusts that the LORD will help him again.

And so he goes to battle. The armorbearer of Saul goes down to the valley to fight with the giant warrior, who has his own armorbearer at his side. Goliath seems offended by his opponent. While David probably wasn’t the young boy we see pictured in our Sunday School classes, he was not perceived as an equal champion in the match by any means.

But David faces his giant without fear. After all, what is there to fear? Goliath is big and powerful and has multiple weapons on him – but David has the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, the Champion of Israel, on his side.

And I just love his words that reveal his noble heart, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into my hand” (vs. 45-47).

The battle belonged to God. The honor belonged to God. The victory belonged to God. It may have looked like the “little guy” against the “big guy” – but in reality, it was the LORD Almighty against a mere man. So is it surprising that it was the LORD who won the fight?

David struck the Philistine down with a single blow from his slingshot, and then finished him off with Goliath’s own sword – for “there was no sword in the hand of David” (vs. 50). That verse reminded me of chapter 13, when Israel was up against the Philistines, everything seemed hopeless, and nobody except Saul and Jonathan actually owned a sword.

But just as God worked through the bravery of Jonathan at that time to put the Philistines to flight, and just as Jonathan’s faith and success encouraged Israel to take heart and pursue the enemy – so now again God worked through David’s bravery. The Philistines were put to flight, and Israel took heart and pursued them.

Sometimes, it just takes one to step out in faith, and then others will be emboldened to follow.

Lord, help us to be the ones who will step out in faith.