Today’s story is about unwavering faith in God. It is also one of the best know stories by both believers and non-believers. The story of David and Goliath.
This is one of my favorite stories and probably a lot of other people’s too. It is of God using a young man who refused to let circumstances dictate his faith or conquer his God. A youth with ‘giant sized faith.’
Let’s dive into our story and see where the Holy Spirit takes us. I have a feeling a LOT of it is going to be quotes as the Lord does a pretty good job of giving us a first-hand perspective in His telling of the story. We will see where we go and what we learn together.
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It has been three months since David came to king Saul’s palace to render aid to him. During this time David has become an important part of Saul’s personal staff. He is trusted implicitly and welcomed into the most sensitive meetings that take place within the walls of the palace. David is always at hand with his lyre, ready wherever Saul needs him.
Today an urgent dispatch finds Saul in his throne room and David sitting nearby. Abner, Saul’s commander of the guard, enters the throne room. His face is clearly distressed but he waits to be acknowledged before speaking.
“Abner. You have news” inquires Saul.
“Yes my king. Most distressing news. The Philistines are on the move again. Their numbers are great and they gather for battle at Socoh of Judah.
David’s ears prick up. Socuh is not far from Bethlehem. He prays his family is safe. He also prays that Saul will take action against these uncircumcised dogs!
There is no need for David’s second concern as Saul is MORE than ready to take action.
“These Philistines must be pushed back to the sea. They will regret the day they set foot in the land of Israel. Gather the troops. Send the call to battle throughout the land. We march today!”
David is excited! As Saul’s armor bearer he will be in the thick of things, right beside his king.
Abner quickly readies the troops in Gibeah for departure. He also dispatches runners to the other tribes of Israel to call on them to join in the battle. It will take a little time for all of them to respond with troops. The garrison of Gibeah and Bethlehem will have to hold the line until the rest can join in the defense of Israel.
Saul’s army was ready within an hour. At the head rode Saul, king of Israel. But David, his ‘armor bearer’ was not at his side. Saul had chosen another for it truth David was but a youth. Far be it for Saul to take one so young into battle. David would travel with Saul and his army but only as far as Bethlehem. There he would part company with them and return to his father’s sheep. This arrangement displeased David but he would not challenge his king.
When Saul’s forces reached Bethlehem they were met by the soldiers the tribe of Judah had sent. Bethlehem was the largest city before the valley where the battle lines would be drawn up. Bethlehem would be responsible for making sure the troops were supplied with food. Saul’s troops would be Bethlehem’s last line of defense against the Philistines. They needed one another during this time.
Jesse was one of the elders who came out to meet Saul and his army as they arrived. Saul would meet with all the elders of this city to discuss the needs of war but this one he had a personal connection to. Though Saul had never met Jesse he felt an affinity towards him for Jesse’s son, David, had been of tremendous help to Saul and he cared deeply for the youth. Saul intended to personally thank Jesse for the use of his son and to place him safely in Jesse’s hands before continuing on to the battle.
As Saul’s army had approached Bethlehem David had tried to make his presence as unobtrusive as possible. If Saul forgot he was with them he may be able to continue on to the battle with them. Every minute that passed without David being summoned or discharged from the ranks built hope within David’s heart. Finally the call came for him. One of the captains told him that the king sought for him. He was disappointed but he would answer the call none the less.
As David approached king Saul his head was held high. He wanted his king to know he was a man, unafraid of whatever lay before him.
“You called for me my king.” David offers a bow of respect with his words.
Saul saw the way David approached and it pleased him. This youth would make a fine soldier when the time was right. But that time was not today. On this day Saul would see to it that David had the chance to become that soldier; to become a man. He would deliver David safely into the hands of his father.
Saul put a hand on David’s shoulder. “David, my faithful servant. Serve me here; in the hands of your father.” Saul then turned to Jesse. “Jesse of Bethlehem, I return to you your son. He is a great help to me and I pray he will be so again after I return.” Saul moved David to stand at his father’s side.
After this, Saul turned and walked back to his mount. “We Ride!” he called out. His army immediately fell in line and began making their way to the Valley of Elah. David stood and watched from where he was until the last soldier had faded from his sight. Jesse, understanding his son’s longing, stood beside him. Jesse looked on for a different reason. His three eldest sons had joined Saul’s company. While David longed to be accompanying them, Jesse longed to see his sons’ faces coming towards him instead of retreating from him.
“It is time we were on our way” Jesse finally said to David. Until this point both had remained locked in their own thoughts.
David’s life went back to a predictable routine. He cared for his father’s sheep, helped with assembling and delivering supplies to the troops, helped his father with the tasks that were left behind by his brothers, and spent whatever time he had left in song and prayer before the Lord. This last part was his greatest joy. It was also his salvation. He depended on the peace his soul received during these times. Fortunately for him, tending his father’s sheep provided him with ample opportunity for this communion with his Lord.
The days of Saul and the soldiers had fallen into a predictable routine too. Every morning they took formation on the top of the hill to the north of the Valley of Elah and faced their enemy. The Philistines formation occupied the southern mountain facing that same valley. The armies of the Philistines were vast! They had weapons Israel could only dream of. Sword, spears and javelins to name a few. And worst of all they had a giant! This giant was named Goliath. After assembling in battle ranks they waited. They waited as the giant Goliath presented himself in the valley between the two forces and called out to taunt them. Every day he called out the same derision towards Israel.
“Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us” (verses 8b-9). When none took his challenge each day he would continue his insults. “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together” (verse 10)!
Goliath raged and taunted Israel daily in this manner. None dared come from the ranks of Israel though challenged daily, morning and evening. And at the end of each day Goliath would return to his ranks and both sides would retire to their tents for the night.
This daily routine was NOT peaceful or encouraging. It wearied Israel’s souls. Saul and all that heard the words of Goliath were greatly afraid and had no answer as to how to address his challenge.
More than a month had passed without news of either victory or defeat from the front lines. Israel was more acquainted with quick and decisive encounters. Most of their battles lasted no more than days; weeks if pursuit was involved. How long could this one continue? Was there something more that those behind the lines could do to hasten its end? How were Israel’s men on the front lines faring? These questions were running through the minds of all who waited for word.
Fortunately for Jesse, he was close enough that he could inquire further. He could send David to look for himself and bring back word. Jesse knew David’s presence might cause a stir so he prepared gifts for him to bring along with him. Gifts for his brothers so they would welcome his presence, and gifts for their commanders so they would feel kindly towards him and allow him access to his brothers.
One evening Jesse prepared David for the task of bringing answers to those waiting. “I desire word as to how your brothers and the rest of Israel fare. ‘Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp of your brothers. Also take these ten cheeses to the commanders of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them’ (verses 17-18).”
David’s heart leapt within him at the prospect of getting a first-hand accounting of the battle. He should be able to learn much from his brothers and their commanders. It may even be possible to learn how much longer this battle may last. He eagerly agreed to his father’s instructions.
David rose before first light. He wanted to be on his way as soon as possible. Jesse had packed the parcels David was to bring to his brothers the night before. After strapping these onto a donkey David prepared to leave. But first he made certain that the sheep would be cared for in his absence. He left them in the care of a fellow shepherd. David was on his way as the first rays of the morning began to drive back the night.
David arrived in camp as the Israelites were taking up their daily battle positions. Weary of Goliath’s taunts as they were, they still greeted each morning as if it would be the day they charged from their positions to victory over their enemy. They drew up before the Philistines with a battle cry issuing from their lips.
This sound excited David. He figured that Israel’s cry meant that the battle was about to begin. He needed to hurry if he was to find his brothers before they fell upon the enemy. David left his donkey and its provisions with the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks where his brothers were. He greeted them with excitement. He asked if they were preparing to push forward. He asked how they were doing so far. To his eyes, other than lengthened beards and tired eyes, they looked the same as when they had left. For that he was grateful. As he began to speak to them of a token he could take back with him to their father, the giant, Goliath, commenced the morning portion of his daily routine.
As if choreographed by a master playwright, the men of Israel fell back from the front lines. No matter how many times this giant appeared on the battle field the sight of him never ceased to evoke fear.
David was carried along on the wave of Israel’s retreat. Once the customary retreat concluded and Israel had taken up its secondary positions David inquired as to what had happened. One of the men whom he had been pinned against during the retreat spoke up in answer to David’s confusion.
“Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel” (verse 25).
David had trouble believing the man’s answer. He must be mistaken for that would be a GRAND reward indeed. David sought confirmation of the man’s words.
“What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the Living God?” (verse 26) queried David. By the time he had concluded his question his anger at Goliath was apparent. How dare that Philistine dog disrespect the Lord!
To his surprise, the men around him all repeated the same rewards as the first man had spoken of. “Surely someone will take up this challenge” called David to those near him. Eliab, his eldest brother heard him speaking to the soldiers who stood by and became angry. Not only was Goliath trying to goad one of them to throw away his life, his own brother was adding his voice to Goliath’s bidding. He was going to put a stop to it and send David on his way; back to the sheep where he belonged.
With a frown upon his face Eliab confronts David. “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle” (verse 28b).
Eliab’s words fell as a slap against David’s face. “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” (verse 29) demands David of his brother. Eliab was silenced and David turned away from him and towards another. He asked the same questions as before. He was given the same answers. David’s words became bolder with each asking to the point that they became as pointed as a spear. HE was willing to take up the challenge; were there none others?’
David’s words were repeated to Saul who was greatly impressed by a man bold enough to dare rise against Goliath. Saul sent for this man to question him and see if he was sincere in his speech.
When David appeared before Saul the sun was behind him. This obscured his face but his heart and his words were clear to all who listened. “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (verse 32).
Saul could clearly make out David’s size and heard the tenner of youthfulness in his voice. “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth” (verse 33).
David answered Saul with confidence. “’Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a loin, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by the beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.’ And David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of tis Philistine’” (verses 34-37a).
As David spoke these words in Saul’s hearing the sun moved enough to disclose his face. Saul could see the sincerity and truth of David’s words written clearly on his face. A face he knew but yet didn’t know. His heart spoke of David’s faith even if his mind didn’t yet grasp it. His mouth followed his heart; “Go, and the Lord be with you” (verse 37b).
David wore no armor. His clothing was that of a shepherd. Saul would not send this youth into battle so arrayed. He took from his own body his armor and placed it upon the lad.
This was the same armor David used to dress his king in when he went about the kingdom. It pleased David greatly to be wearing it, until he tried to move about. His steps were clumsy and his shoulders weighted to the ground. He turned to face Saul. “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them” (verse 39b). David took off Saul’s armor and laid it upon the arms of his armor bearer. Then he took up his own staff, his sling and his shepherds bag. He turned from Saul and made his way towards Goliath. As he went he stooped to pick up five smooth stones from a brook he crossed. These he placed within his shepherd’s bag.
None impeded his progress towards the place where the giant called out. As he went his heart rested in the strength of the Lord. He knew his God would fight this battle for him. He need only put himself in the Lord’s hands.
Saul and Abner watched as David stepped confidently towards the battle field. Saul could not believe his eyes. This young man was a marvel. A true gift from the Lord. He turned to the commander of his army and asked, “Abner, whose son is this youth” (verse 55b).
Abner’s answer was filled with wonder as well. “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know” (verse 55c).
“Inquire whose son the boy is” ordered Saul.
David broke through Israel’s lines and continued several paces towards the giant. It took a moment for Goliath to stop his taunt and realize that a lone individual was advancing towards him. David stopped to give Goliath a clear view of his challenger. Goliath’s anger burned within him. This was an insult of the highest order.
Goliath bellowed out at David. “’Am I a dog, that you come to me with a stick?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field’” (verses 43-44).
David was not the least bit shaken by the giant’s words. The curses he spewed forth added fuel to David’s resolve to see the Lord’s work done here this day. “You come to me with a sword and 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 down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the hosts of the Philistines this day to the birds 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 that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear, For the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hand” (verses 45-47).
Goliath roared in anger and charged towards David. David ran quickly towards the battle area to meet Goliath. During his advance David quickly unwound his sling from his wrist, slipped his hand into his bag and retrieved one of the stones. He quickly slipped the stone in the well of the sling and set it to twirling.
So enraged was Goliath that he hadn’t even thought to draw his sword as he advanced towards David. He would tear David limb from limb with his bare hands. David held nothing but a staff which Goliath knew he could snap as easily as a twig of a fig tree.
At the precise moment David planted his left foot, brought his right hand which held the sling in a snapping ark and released the outer leather strap from between his fingers. This hurtled the small stone from within the sling through the air and it connected with the giant’s forehead; right between his eyes. The force behind the stone propelled it two fingers deep into the giant’s forehead, stopping him in mid stride.
Goliath fell face first to the ground with a resounding thud. His shield bearer turned in his step to see his master lying on the ground. He stood motionless as David resumed his charge until he reached Goliath’s side. David drew the giant’s own sword from his scabbard and held it aloft. It was heavy and unwieldy in David’s hands but he used the weight of the sword itself to create the force necessary to sever the giant’s head from his body. One blow from the sword was all it took to complete the task.
All eyes were glued to the scene taking place in the middle of the valley. Neither side dared move as the events unfolded before them until David reached down and grasp Goliath’s head by the hair. He held it aloft.
It was if a spell had been broken. The Philistines, seeing their champion dead, fled in terror. The Israelites seeing David holding the head of their foe, rushed after them with a mighty shout of war. Israel pursued the Philistines all the way back where they came from, cutting them down as they went. Only the gates of Gath and Ekron halted their pursuit.
After the last of the Philistines outside the gates were cut down, Israel returned to the Philistine camp and plundered it. Much was added to Israel’s arsenal that day from the spoils. The greatest trophy by far though was the head of the giant, Goliath, which David would bring to Jerusalem. David kept Goliath’s armor for himself. These could be remade into something he could use one day.
While the camp was being plundered Abner went to find David. He brought David and his trophy to Saul. Saul scrutinized him carefully for he knew his face was very familiar to him.
“Whose son are you, young man?” (verse 58a) asked Saul, his voice filled with awe.
David readily answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite” (verse 58b).
(to be continued)
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There is only one question I have for this story. In the end we are told that Saul and Abner did not recognize David. David had been serving in Saul’s court to sooth his troubled soul. David had also been made Saul’s armor bearer. Abner had stood with Saul when David presented himself before Saul in the camp to offer his services in killing Goliath. “David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem” (verse 15). So how did they not know him?
I believe what they were actually saying was that David was so ‘changed inwardly’ that he even shown it outwardly. He walked with more confidence. He stood taller. He carried himself with more surety. Their comments were more of awe than that of not recognizing his face. Saul’s final question of, “Whose son are you, young man?” (verse 58a) can be taken as asking him where he received such courage instead of who his birth father was. David took it as the latter but that is probably not how Saul meant it for this was when Saul took him as his own and wouldn’t let him return home any more. He was now Saul’s young man.
I would LOVE to have that said of me after I faced down my giants. That I had grown so much that I wasn’t even recognizable as the same person. That God had given me a new countenance. A face that reflected His new strength in me.
Another possibility is that the Lord hid David’s identity from those in command. Would Saul have sent the youth that had played the lyre for him into battle if he had truly recognized him? Did they not recognize him because his attire was so foreign to them from what he normally wore in the palace? Is it possible that they didn’t recognize him because his surroundings were different? I have had instances where people I knew well, met me outside our normal meeting places. Their faces were familiar but I couldn’t place them. Is this what Saul and Abner experienced? Honestly, I like the previous explanation better. I pray I dealt with it near enough to how it could have actually happened in our story though.
Father God, I can’t imagine having ‘giant sized’ faith. I have trouble with some of the little things in my life. I want that kind of faith! I want to be able to face all my ‘giants’ and KNOW that they are doomed to fall at Your feet. I DO know that but I don’t always act on that knowledge. I don’t run out to meet them with my sling in motion. Instead I sneak up on them and hope to scare them away with my ‘war cry’ instead. Goliath didn’t respond any better to Israel’s war cry than my giants do.
David’s faith didn’t arise solely from his victorious battles with wild animals. It sprang from his relationship with You, the Lord of all creation. He had learned to trust in You for his very life. He KNEW You had a plan for his life and that NOTHING man could do could stop it. He also knew where his strength lay; IN YOU! Keep building my faith Lord as we walk together. Show me what battles are mine too. Sometimes I think I fail because I’m fighting battles that aren’t mine in the first place. I need to learn to STAY OUT of them instead. You are big enough to handle them without me!
Thank You for taking me inside the story today. I can’t wait to see where we go next!