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David is one of the most remarkable characters found in the Old Testament. He rose from being a humble shepherd boy, taking care of his father’s sheep in the fields, to reigning over hundreds of thousands of people as Israel’s greatest king.
As a youth David faced the mighty Goliath, a real life giant, and defeated him with a single stone. He ruled in Israel for over 40 years, and received a promise from our LORD that one of his descendants would be the Eternal King—the Messiah.
Far from being just a warrior, David was also a skilled musician, a poet, and a deeply introspective man. In the book of Psalms he has left us over 70 songs and prayers, written straight from the heart.
And yet, for all his greatness, David consistently gave credit to the LORD. Early in his life David was called an arrogant man his oldest brother, but David’s words and actions show him to be the opposite. He was a humble man. A man who regularly approached the throne of God in prayer. A man who depended on the LORD’s guidance, and in every situation sought to do that which would honor the Almighty.
It would be true to say that David was a great man. But it is more accurate to say that David was a simple man made great, by the LORD that he trusted in. The same LORD we still pray to today.
For the next eight weeks we’re going to study the life of David. We’re going to get to know this man of faith, and learn from the record of his life which the Holy Spirit has preserved for our benefit.
PRAYER: Father in heaven, you made David great. As we study his life, use your Word to reveal ways in which we are like David. Reveal our weaknesses. Reveal our strengths. Amaze us by his faith, and help us to grow in our own faith through his example. Amen.
In our study of David, we’re going to divide his life up into four chapters. In chapter one of David’s life we’ll watch as “David Tests the LORD, and Finds Him True.” This is also the period in David’s life when he grows to be a great warrior.
Before we read, let’s set the historical context. By this time in history, the LORD has brought the people of Israel up out of Egypt and has begun to settle them in their new land. But there are still other nations and people inhabiting this land. The nation of Israel has been instructed by the LORD to destroy these other nations as God’s judgment over their idolatry.
This is a very different time than we live in today. Today battles are fought with machine guns, laser guidance systems, missiles and all sorts of high tech weaponry. In David’s time battles were fought hand to hand, with sword and spear and javelin.
During this specific time, Saul was serving as the first king of Israel. As such he led the armed forces to war with sword in hand. In our sermon reading we find Saul and the armies of Israel encamped on one side of a valley, and the Philistine army encamped on the other. At this time David’ was serving Saul as an armor bearer, but not as a soldier. When his work for Saul was complete, he would hurry home to tend his father’s flocks of sheep. The present battle line was only 14 miles away from Bethlehem, where David’s father grazed his animals.
1 Samuel 17:4-11, 32-37, 45-50 (NIV)
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.
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.”
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.
Goliath was an intimidating figure to say the least. First of all, he was huge. In our measurements, he stood somewhere around 9 foot 9 inches tall. Standing on his toes, Goliath could have bumped his head on a regulation size basketball hoop.
And Goliath was no string-bean. The weight of his war gear reveals he was an immensely strong man. His armor alone weighed 125 lbs! His spear was compare to a “weaver’s rod”. I’m not sure how big a weaver’s rod is, but I do know that the spear’s tip weighed 15 lbs. That’s about as much as two 12 inch cast iron skillets. Imagine the strength it would take to just hold up a nine foot long spear with two skillets attached to the end. This was a ridiculously large weapon wielded by a ridiculously large man.
And Goliath wasn’t just enrolled in the army of the Philistines to look mean. We’re told that he was a “champion,” and that he had been a warrior since he was a boy. This was a seasoned veteran who had taken many lives in his service to Philistia. The fact that he was bold enough to challenge anyone in Israel’s army to a winner-take-all fight to the death pretty much says it all.
When Goliath marched out to challenge Israel, he found no takers. For forty days the armies of Israel and Philistia camped opposite each other without meeting each other in battle. Each day Goliath had made his challenge, and no one stepped up to take him on.
This is a sad commentary on the state of Israel’s faith. You see, when the LORD brought his chosen nation to this new land he had told them the following:
“17 “If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’— 18 you shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: 19 the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So shall the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover the Lord your God will send the hornet among them until those who are left, who hide themselves from you, are destroyed. 21 You shall not be terrified of them; for the Lord your God, the great and awesome God, is among you” (Deuteronomy 7:17-21 NKJV).
But Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified when Goliath stepped out to challenge them. He was just too big, too mighty, too deadly.
Israel’s mistake was judging Goliath by his outward strength, and estimating their chance of victory their according to their own military might. They should have remembered the promise of the LORD, and the power he had displayed in Egypt when Moses brought them out of slavery with miracles from God’s own hand.
And this is where we first see the faith of David displayed. He was just a young man, but he was immediately appalled that this Philistine had been permitted to challenge the armies of the LORD without repercussion. And so David offered himself. He told Saul that HE would battle Goliath.
Saul shows his lack of faith again, by telling David that surely he can’t face Goliath because he is just an inexperienced shepherd. But David reassures him that while he hasn’t fought in wars, he has fought wild animals to protect his father’s sheep. He tells Saul that he’s killed both lion and bear in defense of the flock.
But even in this David wasn’t showing a reliance on his own ability. He gives God the credit for giving him the victory over lion and bear. David says,
“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” (1 Samuel 17:36-37 NIV).
The story of David and Goliath is often held up as an example of what the little guy can do when he gives it his best shot. But this story isn’t about self confidence at all. This story is about faith.
When David steps out on the field of battle he says as much to Goliath and all who are listening. He says,
“…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” (1 Samuel 17:45-46 NIV).
In other words, Goliath’s confidence for victory rested in his weapons of war and his own strength, but David’s confidence rested in the LORD. The LORD was David’s weapon. David emphasizes where his strength lies by saying,
“…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” (1 Samuel 17:47 NIV).
From David’s faith in the LORD, courage sprang forth. When Goliath moved forward to silence this little gnat who was lipping off to him, David RAN to meet him. He didn’t even have a shell in the chamber when he ran either. As he ran he reached into his bag to find a stone for his sling. And the rest is history.
From faith in the LORD’s promise and power, courage sprang up and David ran forward. And while David gained notoriety for this act of bravery on the field of battle, his intention was actually to honor the LORD by simply trusting his promise.
There’s so much for us to learn here. From David’s faith which brought about courageous action, our faith can learn to do the same.
First, we need to know God’s promises. We learn of these by reading God’s Word, together here, and at home with our families, and by ourselves.
Then, we need to learn not to let outward circumstances weaken our faith in God’s promises. The LORD wasn’t intimidated by Goliath, so why should we be intimidated by people or circumstances that face us today? The LORD has promised to be with us also. We are his followers.
With confidence in God’s almighty power, we can then learn to CHARGE into the fray just like David did. And the result will be the same—victory for us, and praise for the LORD.
Here’s a few of God’s promises for us to remember today. Jesus once said…
“24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24 NKJV).
Later, Jesus made this promise…
“…If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23 NKJV).
Paul spoke of this assurance we have in Christ…
“28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NKJV).
So the promises that we have from God are these: Those who trust in Jesus, are forgiven all their sins. They will live forever with him in heaven. Those who love Jesus, are loved by the Father and he makes his home right in our hearts. And nothing can then happen in our lives that God will not cause to benefit us.
These are promises to hold onto. From them comes courage. From them comes power from God which can overcome anything we face in this life. Through simple faith in the LORD’s power and promises, WE become the giants, and the giants of the world become the defeated.
What’s really neat about the story about David and Goliath is that it also reminds us of our Savior from sin.
Like David, Jesus also trusted in his heavenly Father above all else. Like David, Jesus bravely stepped forward to meet his betrayer in the garden of Gethsemane, and his greatest battle on the cross of Calvary. Like David, Jesus triumphed when no one else thought he could. Through his suffering and death our sin was overthrown, and the power of Satan over us was destroyed.
Are you an ordinary person? Not known in the world for your great deeds of courage and faithfulness? So was David.
Do you trust in the LORD who is greater than all obstacles this world can raise up? So did David.
May the LORD’s promises ever be the soil from which our souls find their sustenance. And may the LORD produce great things in our lives, courageous words and actions which give glory to the LORD—who can topple our greatest giants with ease and grace.