TEXT: 1 Samuel 17:1-58
We recall that David, the son of Jesse, was secretly anointed by Samuel as king in Israel in the previous chapter because Saul had been rejected due to his disobedience to God’s command. By providence, David was chosen to play the harp to relieve Saul of his affliction and torment by an evil spirit. David’s anointing marked the confirmation of God’s hand upon him for greater exploits, and “…the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward…” (1 Samuel 16:13).
This study focuses on the war between Israel and the Philistines, a recurrent problem between the two nations. The Philistines had gathered at Shochoh, a territory of Judah, to fight against the people of God. For forty days, their champion, who goes by the name Goliath, taunted the army of Israel with crass vituperation, outright disdain and hate, and there was none to challenge him or call his bluff. By providence, however, David appeared on the scene of battle and through sheer courage and faith in God, took up the gauntlet to confront him. God gave him the victory and he defeated Goliath and brought resounding victory to Israel.
The defeat of Goliath underscores the importance of faith and dependence on God: that believers should not trust in the arm of flesh for victory in the battles of life but in the living God. “Thus, saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5).
GOLIATH’S CHALLENGE AND DISDAIN FOR ISRAEL’S ARMY (1 Samuel 17:1-11; 14:1-22; 2 Kings 18:17-35; Exodus 23:20-23; Deuteronomy 20:1-4; Isaiah 41:10-16; 49:24-26; Exodus 14:13,14)
The Philistines who fled before Israel not long ago, gathered again at Shochoh to fight against them. “And Saul and the
men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines” (1 Samuel 17:2). The boldness of the Philistines might have been prompted by their possible awareness that Saul had fallen out of favour with God, thus losing divine support. They supposed that Israel would be an easy prey since their leader no longer enjoyed God’s protection. This probably emboldened them to confront the Israelites. This should serve as warning to believers to
maintain constant relationship with God because their adversaries are constantly watching to see that they fall out of the favour and protection of God (1 Peter 5:8). Obedience to and steadfast walk with God will ensure divine protection and security; otherwise, disobedience to His commands will bring loss of divine presence, favour, peace and answer to prayers. It will expose the believer to satanic attacks and divine judgment.
Goliath subjected the Israelites’ army to great bashing, ridicule and disdain. As a strategy, he employed derisive propaganda with boasting to weaken their army. “And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you and let him come down to me. If he
be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us” (1 Samuel 17:8,9). Then he capped his vituperation and said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day”. Goliath’s strategy worked because, “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid”.
Besides, Goliath seemed to be very confident of his kitting – the physical armour – the helmet of brass, coat of mail, greaves of brass, staff of spear, shield, etc. He was very sure that the Israelites would not find a man to match his military status. Meanwhile, Saul’s loss of fellowship with the Lord led to his loss of faith in the promises of God. Consequently, great fear gripped him and the entire nation. Their fear showed that Israel’s search for security in a human king instead of absolute trust in God had failed.
On the basis of God’s covenant, the Israelites were never to fear their enemies but trust in the Lord who promised to
defend them whenever they were confronted by their enemies. He said, “When thou goest out to battle against
thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 20:1). In the same vein, believers are not to fear Satan and his agents but trust in the living God wholeheartedly. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world”(1 John 4:4).
DAVID’S PEDIGREE AND GRACIOUS CHARACTER: (1 Samuel 17:12-31; 16:12,18; Psalm 37:23; 115:2-11)
While Goliath was still parading himself as the champion of the Philistines and boasting of his ability to defeat anyone,
David appeared on the battlefield. “Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul” (1 Samuel 17:12). He hailed from a family of eight sons and was the youngest. Jesse had sent him to check on the welfare of his three elder brothers – Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah – who were in the army. But his appearance at the war scene could not be said to be a coincidence but divinely arranged (Psalm 37:23).
David was described as having a lovely personality, a man of valor and courage. “Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him” (1 Samuel 16:18). While the army of Israel was down
with fear, David volunteered to confront the champion of the Philistines. On noticing his courage to fight Goliath, Eliab, his eldest brother, became angry and accused him of pride and naughtiness. But he bore the provocation with admirable temper; he only asked: “…What have I nowdone? Is there not a cause?” He humbly discountenanced his brother’s provocation, discouragement and accusation and turned to others that he might understand the problem. He was determined to fight the Philistine. The ill-will of his brothers would not deter him because the glory of God and of his nation was at stake. He must have thought within himself, “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?” (Psalm 115:2). Christians also should be determined to accomplish their God-given tasks despite oppositions or provocations. In addition, we should handle provocations with grace and calmness. “And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them” (1 Samuel 17:23).
Unlike other Israelites, what David heard stirred up faith in him instead of fear; it led to decision and determination in place of discouragement and despair. He rose to the challenge for the glory of God and the territorial integrity of his nation. Believers should not allow negative statements to remove their confidence in God and His promises.
COURAGE AND THE TRIUMPH OF FAITH (1 Samuel 17:32-58; Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Romans 10:10; 2 Timothy 4:1-5)
In spite of Goliath’s intimidating features, stature and military prowess, David displayed boldness, courage and extraordinary faith in the God of Israel. He acted selflessly to defend the glory of God and reversed the national reproach. “And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:32).
Drawing from his past experience, David testified to God’s strength and faithfulness when he was confronted with danger. He recalled that, as a shepherd boy, he killed a lion which took a lamb out of his father’s flock. He did the same thing to a bear. He was confident that God who enabled him to kill a lion and a bear would do the same to the uncircumcised Philistine who had defied the armies of the living God. “David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine…” (1 Samuel 17:37).
With faith and assurance in his heart, David confessed what the Lord would do. “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:45-47). There
is always a link between what we believe and what we confess; out of the abundance of the heart the mouth always speaks. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).
Apparently, David’s confession and audacity infuriated Goliath and he rose to attack him. But David ran quickly, reached for a stone in his shepherd’s bag and launched an offensive from his sling against the champion of the Philistines. The stone hit and sunk into his forehead, “and he fell upon his face to the earth”. Thus, David killed Goliath; the champion of the Philistines was brought down without much fight. The story and defeat of Goliath is legendary. It was an event that left in its trail a lot of lessons for humanity. First, it cautions us against pride and boasting. Surely, pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Goliath had boasted of his ability even before the battle began, but his proud heart destroyed him. Second, God can use seemingly insignificant vessels to wrought victory for His people: David was an insignificant figure in comparison to Goliath’s person, power and position. Moreover, a stone launched with a sling would do less damage to a man armed like Goliath. But these seemingly insignificant vessels – youthful David and a small stone – brought down a giant. Still, we recall that God is a Specialist in the use of little things to accomplish big purposes. Consider that a rod in Moses’ hand, the jaw-bone
of an ass, a mustard seed, five barley loaves and two small fishes, etc. were all used to accomplish great purposes. Third, Goliath’s defeat shows the futility of carnal weapons in the battle of life. Fourth, we must never disparage or look
down on individuals. God can use anyone to fulfil His program Saul and David’s elder brothers discouraged him from confronting Goliath because they felt he was not qualified by all standards to do so, but they were wrong. On the other hand, there is a lot to learn from David. First, he never forgot God’s past mercies and gracious dealings with him: that the same God who delivered the lion and the bear into his hand could do the same against an uncircumcised Philistine. It was this knowledge that inspired faith in him to confront the present challenge. Second, he was humble. He knew without God, he could not do anything; therefore, he relied on his God-given ability. Third, he was concerned for the glory of God and would not mind putting his life on the line to defend it. Fourth, he had no personal ambition to be popular or prominent.
As David triumphed over Goliath, so did Christ over Satan and the hosts of hell when He went to the Cross (Colossians 2:14,15), and has transferred this victory to His followers. Believers can exercise power over Satan and all adversaries with courage and confidence in God. We should not be afraid to confront any opposition as we preach the gospel because God has said, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee withthe right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
In conclusion, we should note the following: one, God resists the proud and pours contempt on those who defy Him. Two, like Goliath, no one ever hardened his heart against God and prospered. Three, we should enlist in the battle against Satan and his agents to defend God’s honour and Word. Like David, believers should confront every battle of life by putting on the whole armour of God, believing that no power of darkness will prevail against them. Finally, believers should note that “…God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27,29).