ALL IN - David
Today we look at a familiar story. In fact, this is such a familiar story I imagine just about everyone here has heard of it; and I probably don’t even need to read it. It is the story of David and Goliath—the shepherd boy who defeats a giant with a slingshot and a stone. Yet, even though it is a story we know, there is so much detail about this story in the Bible. I want us to see it fresh today, because it may have been quite some time since any of us have actually read it in the Bible. Because there is so much detail included with the story of David and Goliath, it takes up 50 verses in 1 Samuel 17. So, this is not a short piece of scripture for us to be looking at today.
1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. 4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. 8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. 12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. 17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.” 20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear. 25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.” 26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.” 28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” 29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him. 32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” 38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. 41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” 45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
This is the story that paves the way for David to become the greatest king in Israelite history. This event is what makes David famous among all the people. It has become the theme of other best-selling books like Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado, or Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio, or Slaying the Giants in Your Life by David Jeremiah. There is an overwhelming assumption in these books that giants are no match for people of faith who hold onto the promises of God.
It seems like a good story for us to open and investigate in this series of messages on embracing a life of faith that is “all in.” But there are so many things all happening at the same time in this story, it might be worth a closer look. What are the features and nuances we can pull from the Bible here to tell us something meaningful and instructive about a faith like David has?
either these chapters are chronologically out of order, or something else is going on here — this is an example of narrative overlap
the Bible is drawing our attention to specific features in this David and Goliath event
To begin with, let me back up and point out a few problems that come up in this section of 1 Samuel. If we were to back up just one chapter to 1 Samuel 16, we would notice that David seems to already be spending his time split between shepherding at his father’s home in Bethlehem, and playing his music in the royal court of king Saul. The music David played comforted and eased Saul’s tormented soul. However, once we jump into the David and Goliath story in chapter 17 it seems as though Saul has no idea who David even is. So, either these chapters are chronologically out of order, or something else is going on here. I agree with biblical scholars who suggest that what we see here is an example of narrative overlap. The author of 1 Samuel is not interested in exact chronological detail here because these stories are meant to highlight other details. Therefore, we should be looking at the nuances which the narrative brings to our attention. It is not that the Bible gets the order wrong or is incorrect; rather, it is that the Bible is drawing our attention to specific features in this David and Goliath event.
What are those features? Let’s consider a few things. It seems like the author goes to great lengths in this passage to demonstrate for us the way in which all of the Israelites—including king Saul—are terrified of the Philistine champion Goliath. The Bible spends considerable verses describing Goliath for us. It is interesting to note that the Bible never refers to Goliath as a giant. The Hebrew alludes to his height as six cubits; that would be over nine feet. The Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament tells us his height was six feet nine inches tall. The discrepancy does not matter, and the actual height of Goliath does not matter. The detail which the narrative highlights is to tell us that Goliath had substantial physical stature. He was at least a head taller than everybody else; which is an important detail because the Bible also tells us earlier in 1 Samuel that king Saul is a head taller than everybody else.
weakness of the Israelites
But, whereas Goliath comes forward and presents a challenge to the armies of Israel, Saul withdraws in fear and refuses to present himself as a challenge to the armies of the Philistines. This seems to be a feature that this story wants us to notice—that Saul and all the Israelites are afraid of Goliath and the Philistines.
armor of Goliath
Here’s another feature this story brings to the front: armor. There are several verses in 1 Samuel 17 devoted to just telling us all the details about Goliath’s armor and weapons. The author simply wants to make it clear that no one was a match for Goliath. He had the laser guided smart bombs and satellite linked drones. David had the equivalent of one of those potato shooters made out of some spare PVC pipe. David does not stand a chance against Goliath and everybody knows it.
symbolic representation of the battle
The amount of attention given to the dialogue is also notable. Goliath stands as a representative for all the Philistine army; but more than that, he speaks as a representative for the Philistine gods. He is not just symbolic of Philistine physical power, he is also symbolic of Philistine supernatural power. David’s dialogue brings contrast. His words make it clear that physical power is useless in this matchup, it is solely a supernatural showdown. And David’s choice to ignore any of the battle armor offered to him makes this clear. This is a match between God and those who are enemies of God. David’s words make it certain that the Lord does not need earthly strength to accomplish his will and win the victory.
The rest is history. One stone from David’s sling and the champion Goliath falls. David has unwavering faith; he is absolutely certain that the Lord will prevail in this battle. Goliath represented all the overwhelming power of evil which came forward to attack and decimate God’s people, and David has the faith to step out there alone to face that evil and take it head-on. How do we come to find a faith like that? How can we develop a faith like David’s to face the overwhelming giants of this world? What are we supposed to learn from this story?
you cannot have a faith that allows you to do what David did (and you don’t have to)
And this where I am convinced that all of those popular self-help books about facing your giants and defeating your enemies get it wrong. The simple answer is this: you can’t. You cannot have a faith that allows you to do what David did. You cannot face giants like David did and come out victorious. But there is also this: you don’t have to.
David is the Messiah that Israel needed to save them because Goliath was a challenger they could not overcome
not with an overwhelming display of earthly power—but came as a shepherd
You see, there is a reason why the author of 1 Samuel points out in this story that Saul and all the Israelites draw back—they know for certain that none of them can face this giant. There is a reason why this story in 1 Samuel 17 comes immediately after the chapter in which the prophet Samuel anoints David to be the next king. David comes into this scene against Goliath as the anointed one of God. Do you know what the Hebrew word is for “anointed one?” It’s Messiah. David is the Messiah that Israel needed to save them because Goliath was a challenger they could not overcome. David was the Messiah (anointed one) who came—not with an overwhelming display of earthly power—but came as a shepherd. And that is what God used to stand up and overthrow the powerful evil facing God’s people; he used a shepherd.
the life of faith entirely depends on Jesus
This is one of those stories in the Bible that is meant to point us forward to Jesus. Israel stood with a threat of evil facing them and only a Messiah (anointed one) from God could save them. The story of David and Goliath is meant to teach us one thing: we stand with the threat of sin facing us and only a Messiah from God can save us. Sin is a giant that we cannot beat on our own. Sin is a giant that we cannot even beat together. Only Jesus—the Messiah—can beat sin. That is the point we draw today from the David and Goliath story. What does that say about our life of faith; where does this leave us today? It is a reminder that the life of faith entirely depends on Jesus.
once David steps in and wins the battle they never could, then God’s people are free to stand up and advance forward
If you keep reading the story past verse 50 you would see that as soon as David struck down and killed Goliath, the Israelite army rises up and chases away the Philistines. Once David steps in and wins the battle they never could, then God’s people are free to stand up and advance forward. But those steps forward only happen because God sent his anointed one to save them. There is not one single step of faith that can ever take place apart from Jesus—the anointed one of God sent to save the people he loves.
Jesus came, not as one who calls the powerful and the champions, but as one who calls those who are weak and those who are defeated, those who are scarred and those who have been beat down
Jesus did not come with armor and weapons. Jesus did not come with an overwhelming force of power. Jesus came as a shepherd of his people. Jesus came, not as one who calls the powerful and the champions, but as one who calls those who are weak and those who are defeated, those who are scarred and those who have been beat down. Jesus came for all those who think to themselves, “I cannot take on the evil of this world by myself any longer!” Jesus came for you! This is a life of faith that depends on Jesus.
Question 21 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks what true faith looks like. This is what it says:
True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation. These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.
faith holds a trust that Jesus has already won the battle we never could — our steps of faith, then, are steps that only take place because our eyes are fixed and focused only on Jesus
Wholehearted trust; that’s what the catechism says about faith. It is a trust that Jesus has already won the battle we never could. Our steps of faith, then, are steps that only take place because our eyes are fixed and focused only on Jesus.