Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another Favorite Bible Story

Properly Equipped

This is a story that most people are at least a little bit familiar with. It is the classic confrontation between David and Goliath.

Let me give you a brief set up of the story. The army of the Israelites (under the leadership of King Saul) is prepares to do battle with the army of the Philistines. Each army occupies a hillside with a large valley between them. A giant of the Philistines, Goliath offers this challenge: each side will choose a champion. The two will battle to the death. If the Israelite champion wins, then the Philistines will be their slaves. If the Philistine champion wins, then Israel will become the slaves.

All-in-all, this seems like a pretty tidy little way to avoid a nasty battle with a lot of casualties. The problem is that Goliath, the Philistines' champion, is over nine feet tall. His battle armor weighs 125 pounds (57 kilograms) and the tip of his spear weighs 15 pounds (7 kg). He is a monster compared to the Israelites and nobody is willing to accept his challenge. He makes the challenge daily, morning and evening, for 40 days.

At this time, David is just a boy. He is too young to be in the army. But his three oldest brothers are in the army and his father sends David to bring provisions to his older brothers. This is where we join the story. It is found in the First book of Samuel, chapter 17, beginning in verse 20:

20 Early in the morning David left the flock with 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 greeted his brothers. 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 When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran 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 father's 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 desert? 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 boy, and he has been a fighting man 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 delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver 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 only a boy, ruddy 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 of the air and the beasts of the field!"

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 hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, 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.

51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.
When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. 52 Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath a]">[a] and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. 53 When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp. 54 David took the Philistine's head and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put the Philistine's weapons in his own tent.

55 As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner, commander of the army, "Abner, whose son is that young man?"
Abner replied, "As surely as you live, O king, I don't know."

56 The king said, "Find out whose son this young man is."

57 As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine's head.

58 "Whose son are you, young man?" Saul asked him.
David said, "I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem."

My favorite part in this story is found in verses 38 and 39. Saul tries to outfit David for battle by giving David his armor. David isn't a soldier and can't even walk around in the king's battle armor. David takes off the warrior's armor and reaches for weapons that he is more familiar with: some smooth round stones and his trusty sling.

Now it does seem odd that in all of the army of Israel, nobody would accept the challenge of Goliath. But then the king accepts a bold young shepherd boy to fight on behalf of all of Israel. The boy has the confidence that is in the God that he represents--not the king nor the king's army. Neither is his trust in the king's weapons. He will use the weapons that he came with.

It seems to me that we often want to use weapons that are of our own designs and desires than to trust that God is going to provide for us. We think that we can't tell people about God's love unless we take some class, or read some book, or pass some test that was designed by some man that has a better way. God has given each believer a story to tell. And with that story, a simple command to tell our story of how God has provided us eternal life through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. He has even given--to each believer--the power of His Holy Spirit.

The devil stands as Goliath, boldly challenging us to declare our allegiance to God and to Jesus. He appears to be invincible and nobody wants to stand against him. We would rather not draw attention to ourselves and to our beliefs. We'll just mill about in the crowd of humanity, trying desperately to blend in with the non-believers rather than to stand out as one that trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Why can't we be like David? Why can't we just declare our allegiance to God? Why can't we see through Satan's schemes to make us feel powerless when the Holy Spirit lives within us and gives us His power? I think that we could all learn much from this brave, young shepherd boy.

John <><

  1. 1 Samuel 17:52 Some Septuagint manuscripts; Hebrew a valley


Anonymous said...

I'm right with ya on the last paragraph. I talked about David and Goliath a few weeks ago to my youth. So often I wonder why I fail to have the faith of David. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Five Smooth Stones said...

Awesome post, John. Obviously, this is one of our favorite accounts in scripture (hence the name Five Smooth Stones), and we believe that the one thing that is hardest for us all is that ability to trust our Lord so completely that we can move without fear. In the casual telling of the David vs Goliath story this is often overlooked or downplayed, but, that faith which the shepherd had allowed him to be used by God to affect a huge victory for the nation of Israel.

If we could simply recognize all the deliverances we have enjoyed by the hand of God (as David remembered the lion and bear), we would be free to affect good for the kingdom today. Alas, we too easily are distracted by the cares of the world, forgetting the mercies and graces we have been granted.

Peace and blessings, friend.

Mike said...

If you're waiting for me to comment, here I am.

Wv: bilmud - Sort of like Bilbos situation right now. (stuck)

Anonymous said...

Hi Pastor John,

This is a beautiful beautiful story! I will share this post to my husband. Please continue spreading God's Holy Word. May God continue showering his blessings to you and your family.