What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
Killed a spider? Made a political joke on FB? Asked a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage? Asked that girl to marry you?
Courage though,is not primarily found in our actions. The best kinds of courage are seen in those that have simple faith in an extraordinary God Who acts on their behalf.
1 – The Fearful King v.1-11, 31-39.
We know Saul has fallen from grace, become petulant, moody (16:14-23), and suspicious.
He has faced the Philistines before, but his forcing the people to make foolish promise to eat no meat until they had won the battle, ended in his own humiliation and the escape, instead of destruction of the Philistines (14:24-46).
Here, the Philistines have come up against Israel again.
While the Philistines gathered ‘for battle’, Saul and his army, merely ‘gathered’. (v1-2). Saul and his army for forty days, drew up in their battle lines against the Philistines, but they are only spectators.
The cause for their concern was a single man, Goliath, a giant in size and in attitude. They were thoroughly intimidated.
King Saul, the leader of the Israelites whom they had chosen that would go out and fight their battles for them ( 1 Samuel 8:19), the one who was taller than anyone else in all of Israel ( 1 Samuel 9:2), failed to be the king they asked for.
Many years earlier, Israel had failed to enter the Promised Land out of fear of giants ( Numbers 13,14). They wandered after that in the wilderness for forty years. Here, they had been in fear of giant for forty days. Nothing much had changed. God promised deliverance, but Israel still chose to walk by sight rather than by faith.
David convinces Saul to let him go and fight Goliath by giving his resume of previous kills. A lion and bear have already met their end with David ( v34-37), and David sees this giant as being no different. God had helped him with those, He will help him with this (v37).
Saul thinks that weapons and armour are what win battles. When David came to fight the giant that Saul should have been fighting, the only thing Saul can think to give him is his own armour ( 17:38-39).
A fearful person makes a terribly impractical leader.
They micro manage.
They fail to work alongside those they lead.
They fail to acknowledge any mistake, and are quick to take the easy way out as soon as it presents itself.
They lead not from humility or integrity, but from pride and fear of losing the power they cling to as their own sense of worth.
When it came down to it, Saul did not face Goliath himself because his own fear was even bigger than Goliath was.
Saul’s parting words to David were for God to be with him. God certainly wasn’t with Saul ( 16:14), and Saul seems to know it.
2 – The Cynical Brother v. 12-30
Saul, of course, is not the only one present who is fearful (17:11). There is a whole army of ‘brave’ men that have stood for forty days, listening to Goliath.
David’s brothers are also there. The ones that Samuel initially thought were also ‘kingly’ material ( 16:6-13).David is sent to check on his brothers in the ‘battle’, and the history of Israel takes another pivotal turn because of what he does.
As had happened for the forty days previous, Goliath issues his challenge (17:8-9). The only difference this time is that David hears it (17:23) but instead of being afraid of this giant and his boasting, he is emboldened, intrigued, and starts asking questions about the reward on offer (17:26).
His eldest brother Eliab, however, has a dose of ‘reality’ for his young, upstart brother. He attempts to put him back in his place, reminding him that he just the little one, just the shepherd boy (17:28).
Eliab looks at all that is happening and is overcome with the reality that no man can defeat Goliath. He is overwhelmed with the might and power of men. He has a “Goliath-saturated” mind, and is cynical about David’s motives as a result. He sees Davids passion and mocks him, despises his youth, yet he’s not prepared to act himself.
David, on the other hand, sees only what God can do, and what He has promised He will do. David’s reality was far greater and deeper than Eliab’s cynical reality. David believed that God could act, and would act if someone would only believe. He has a “God-saturated” mind.
“It is a tragic irony that some of the most discouraging opposition Christians face comes from the people who should be on God’s side. Confronting an enemy like Goliath is frightening enough as it is, but often added to that are the supposed believers who do everything in their power to prevent sincere young Christians from stepping out in bold faith. The cowardly people of God are always the biggest obstacle to the mission of God.” – Heath Thomas & JD Greear
“Goliath is not really the problem here. A leather strap and a little rock can fix him. The real menacing giant in this story is the unbelief that dominates the hearts of God’s people. The obstacle is not found in God; it is not found in God’s opponents; it is found in God’s own people.” – Heath Thomas & JD Greear.
How different would our churches, families, communities be if, instead of responding with Eliab’s cynical spirit, we assumed with David, that God is poised to work powerfully, if only we would get on His side?
3 – The Giant Slayer v 40-50
David steps up, ready for action. What motivates him, although he is most certainly interested in the reward ( it was this interest that drew him to the attention Saul v31), is that a heathen man is defying God by defying God’s people ( v26b,36b).
Goliath mocks David, the same way Eliab had. He is young, he is little, he is nothing and nobody.
To Goliath, this is a joke, an insult. But to David, this is a matter not of fear of man, but of the fear of God.
It’s defiance of God that David takes issue with, not the defiance of his people, or even of himself. He does not take offence for his own sake, but for God’s name that is being blasphemed.
The punishment for blasphemy is stoning…
Armour is not going to equip David for this battle. Weapons are not going to help him. If he had taken armour and weapons, he would be relying on men’s might and power, pitted against another man’s might and power. He doesn’t come WITH weapons, but comes IN the name of the Lord, trusting God will use what he has to His glory. The anointed messenger who comes with the Word of God is what does the damage in the end.
David was going to have victory, not because he was battle wise, or more skilled in fighting, but because he knew from the very beginning, this was not his fight, but God’s. ( v45, 47).
Saul didn’t think the battle was his. The rest of the army didn’t think the battle was their’s either. They had all forgotten that their God was a God who delivers and rescues. David had not.
All throughout 1 Samuel we have seen that while people are concerned with size, looks, physical attributes, God is concerned only with hearts.
It is not by strength that man prevails. ( 1 Samuel 2:9b).
God will give strength to His king, and exalt the power of His anointed ( 2:10b).
The point of the story is not that we can overcome any odds – that we can be like David, defeat all the ‘giants’ that come across our path.
This isn’t about the little guy winning.
The interpretative problem we have with this story usually is that we identify with David. We want to be like him, standing up to the heathen, calling them out and shouting them down, before knocking off their heads. Some of us like confrontational evangelism a little too much. We forget grace, and we forget love of neighbour.
But in this story, we are not David. We are not the Saviour.
We’re the Israelite army. We need a Saviour.
David fights as the representative for all of Israel, and wins victory for all of Israel, even though they have done nothing to earn it themselves. They have been fearful, impotent in the face of Goliath. They could do nothing to save themselves. They needed someone to come in and rescue them. Someone to stand between them and certain destruction, take on the full face of death, be willing to die, and in the end, conquer.
They needed God’s anointed one to deliver them.
We are in a similar position. Our greatest problem/giant in our lives is not resolving that health issue we have. It’s not our job we need. It’s not our fragile friendships. It’s us. It’s our sin.
In the face of all my sin, and all the consequences of my sin, I cannot stand. I cannot fight. I cannot save myself.
Jesus was our representative before God. He faced that great and terrible wrath that we could not, and He conquered it. He killed death, and He killed our death.
(He was a Son Who obeyed His Father’s will fully.He was abandoned, betrayed by his brethren. He was misunderstood. He was the unexpected anointed one that saved God’s people from certain destruction.)
Because Jesus did all that, I am then freed from any other fears I have also. If He has defeated death, what is there left fear?
If God has given us all things in Christ, why would He hold anything back?
We can have courage that comes not from the absence of pain or struggle, or the absence of fear, but from having a treasure that strife and fear cannot threaten. Christ Himself.
If you want to ‘face all the giants’ in your life, there’s some bad news. You cannot save yourself. If you long to see victory in all the battles of your life, here’s some good news. There is a Saviour you can fully trust in. He has conquered the final enemy, and all who trust in Him, come eternity, will see all the sad things come untrue and all the battles we have faced work out for His glory and our good.