The account of David and Goliath stirs the imagination. Children love to hear about the boy David defeating the ‘giant’ Goliath. Even as adults we like it when the underdog wins.
The army of Israel was fighting against their enemy, the Philistines. Each army was camped on opposite sides of the Valley of Elah, a wide valley ideal for a conflict between armies. Rather than instigating a battle, the Philistines suggested an alternative: “Why do you come out to line up in battle formation?… Am I not a Philistine and are you not servants of Saul? Choose one of your men and have him come down against me. If he wins in a fight against me and kills me, we will be your servants. But if I win against him and kill him, then you will be our servants and serve us…I defy the ranks of Israel today. Send me a man so we can fight each other!” (1 Samuel 17:8-10 CSB).
The Philistines had weighted this challenge in their favor. Their champion was an impressive man. His height was “six cubits and a span” (1 Samuel 17:4) – about nine feet tall (just under 3 metres). He wasn’t just tall, but he was well built, as well: he “wore a bronze helmet and bronze scale armor that weighed one hundred twenty-five pounds. There was bronze armor on his shins, and a bronze javelin was slung between his shoulders. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed fifteen pounds” (1 Samuel 17:5-7). The impression is that he was a giant of a man in every respect. No wonder no one would accept his challenge and instead lost their courage and were terrified! (1 Samuel 17:11)
When David heard the challenge that Goliath had been making twice a day for over a month, he could not figure out why no one would fight and defeat this loud-mouthed Philistine.
It wasn’t that David was equal to this man in physical prowess. Although often depicted as a child, David was old enough to kill wild animals and even marry. Just after this incident, he became a leader of Saul’s army. This tells us that he was at least in his late teenage years if not in his early twenties at this time. But he was looked on as simply an inexperienced “youth” (1 Samuel 17:33).
How could this youth of little experience take on the seasoned warrior Goliath? It wasn’t because of the weapons he chose, although he chose weapons he was used to – his sling and a few stones from a brook – and not Saul’s armor. Normally such weapons would have been ineffective in a fight to the death. The key lies in what he told Goliath.
“You come against me with a sword, spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Armies, the God of the ranks of Israel — you have defied him. Today, the Lord will hand you over to me. Today, I’ll strike you down, remove your head, and give the corpses of the Philistine camp to the birds of the sky and the wild creatures of the earth. Then all the world will know that Israel has a God, and this whole assembly will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s. He will hand you over to us” (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
He won this battle simply because he trusted in God.
Do we trust God to be with us in the battles of life that we face? Do we view our battles as already having been won because God is on our side?
There is much to learn from David and his trust in God. He did not doubt God but acted on his faith.
Photo: the Valley of Elah (taken by Patrick Boyns)
Readings for next week:
27 August – 1 Samuel 17
28 August – 1 Samuel 18; Psalm 23
29 August – 1 Samuel 19; Psalm 59
30 August – 1 Samuel 20; Psalm 5
31 August – 1 Samuel 21; Psalms 56, 34