This morning we will read one of the most well known stories in the Bible. It tells of a courageous shepherd boy who fearlessly faces a Philistine giant. Though he appears to be no match for the colossal champion, this young lad has a secret weapon. This is the epic story of David versus Goliath, and its the seventh message in our study of ancient Israel.
In the order of Scripture, the battle between David and Goliath is told after Saul’s terrors begin. Last week we read that the king had sought out a musician to play the harp for him whenever he needed comfort. This harpist he found was David. Over time Saul developed a great love for the young boy. He even expressed his appreciation to David’s father Jesse. This would suggest that the king knew David and his dad sometime before his contest with Goliath.
However, after David kills the giant Philistine (which we will read about today), the Bible indicates that King Saul wonders who David’s father is. He asks Abner, the commander of his army, and he doesn’t know either. This seems to indicate that Saul did not know David or his father prior to his fight against Goliath. Whatsmore, David journeys to the battle from his boyhood home in Bethlehem rather than from Saul’s royal home in Gibeah. Perhaps David was not yet staying with and serving King Saul. It seems possible that events of chapter 17 actually took place before some of those described in chapter 16.
Though their chronological sequence is uncertain, we know that David both faced Goliath and served as Saul’s harpist. He was a multi-talented young man. David’s love for music continued throughout his life as evidenced by the book of Psalms, most of which he composed. His courage was another trait that he exhibited throughout his life as well. This bravery was certainly on display in today’s sermon.
I. CHALLENGE PRESENTED (1 Samuel 17:1-19)
The Philistines had once again gathered their armies together to wage war against Israel. King Saul summoned his troops to meet them in Judah. The 2 forces positioned themselves on opposite mountain sides with the valley of Elah between them. One of the Philistines, a mighty champion named Goliath, walked out of their camp and down into the valley. He was almost 10 feet tall and clad with heavy armor. The giant shouted out to the Israelites so that all could hear. He challenged them to send their best warrior forward to meet him in a one-on-one, “winner take all” contest. If Goliath won, Israel would surrender to the Philistines. If Goliath lost, the Philistines would surrender to Israel. Because of his daunting size and strength, King Saul and his men were dismayed and discouraged by the giant’s challenge.
Goliath came forward in the morning and the evening for 40 days, taunting Israel and issuing his challenge. But Saul and his troops were frozen in fear, for no one wanted to face the mighty Philistine champion. Jesse’s 3 oldest sons were soldiers in Saul’s army. After many days had passed, Jesse became worried and sent his youngest son David to check on them and bring back a report. David departed from his home in Bethlehem with supplies for his brothers who were on the battlefield at the valley of Elah.
If we as God’s people allow the enemy to dictate the terms of battle we will likely always live in fear and distress. Make no mistake, the Devil will always present conditions that are advantageous to him and never to us. He will entice us into valleys where we should never go. Why do we foolishly consent to his demands and believe his lies? Jesus Christ has already conquered death and the grave. Satan is a defeated enemy. We do not have to play by his rules or answer to his terms. Allow God to exercise control over your life.
II. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED (1 Samuel 17:20-32)
David arrived at the camp and found his brothers. While he was greeting them, Goliath came forward shouting his challenge to the armies of Israel. David saw how all of King Saul’s men cowered before the dreaded Philistine. They told David that Saul had promised to greatly reward anyone who could defeat the giant. David was intrigued. He questioned why an uncircumcised Philistine would be allowed to taunt the armies of God.
David’s oldest brother Eliab overheard him speaking with the other soldiers. Eliab was furious and charged David with abandoning his father’s flocks in Bethlehem in order to come watch the battle. David answered his brother’s ire by stating that he was simply asking a legitimate question. He went throughout the camp inquiring about Goliath and his challenge until word finally reached the king. Saul asked that David be brought to him. Standing before the embattled king, young David boldly accepted the Philistine’s challenge to fight.
David could not believe that the armies of Israel, God’s chosen people, were afraid of this heathen Philistine. It bothered him to see how they trembled in fear. David believed that God was almighty and that no enemy could stand before Him - not even a great warrior like Goliath. His unwavering faith in God’s power led to David’s tremendous courage. May we as Christians share this same level of faith...
III. CHALLENGE COMPLETED (1 Samuel 17:33-54)
King Saul initially tried to talk David out of his decision, believing that the young boy had virtually no chance against mighty Goliath. But David insisted, telling Saul of previous encounters in which God had enabled him to kill both the lion and the bear. Impressed by his confidence, the king consented and gave David his armor and sword. David tried it on, but the armor did not fit well and felt funny, so he took it off. Instead the shepherd boy took a simple sling and 5 smooth stones from a nearby brook. Armed with only these, David bravely walked out into the valley to confront the Philistine giant.
When Goliath saw David approaching, he began to curse incredulously. He could not believe that Israel had allowed a mere boy to answer his challenge. But David boldly proclaimed that God would deliver the Philistine into his hands. Goliath was angered by David’s words and began to advance. Then David took a stone, placed it in his sling, and slung it at the giant. It hit Goliath squarely in the forehead causing the mighty champion to fall down on his face.
Seizing the moment, David quickly ran up to the dazed Philistine. He took Goliath’s sword from its sheath and cut off the giant’s head. When the Philistine army saw what had happened, they turned and fled. The men of Israel pursued them, killing many and plundering their camps as they went. David kept Goliath's head as a trophy and brought it to Jerusalem. He also kept the vanquished champion’s sword. Notice that the Philistines themselves did not honor the terms of Goliath’s challenge as they fled rather than surrendering.
David used a weapon that he was most comfortable with - a sling and a stone. Sometimes we lose the battles in our lives because we fight them with the wrong weapons. God has provided us with the necessary armor to fend off the Devil and his demonic soldiers (see Ephesians 6:11-18). We need to familiarize ourselves with it, to test it, and to ready ourselves to use it when the time comes. We need to put on the whole armor of God, and to masterfully wield the Sword of the Spirit, as we face the the LORD’s enemies.
Prior to their encounter in the valley of Elah, David had never met Goliath. These 2 men were not personally acquainted. Goliath was not an enemy of David per se, but rather an enemy of God. This is what made him so offensive and repugnant to the young lad. Goliath was an affront to the LORD and His people. It is important that we make this distinction. The story of David and Goliath is not so much about overcoming your own personal challenges or the giants in your life, but rather about boldly facing those who stand against the LORD.
How do we view the enemies of God? Do we find them as vile and reprehensible as David did? Probably not. Most of us are content with allowing their taunting and ridicule to go on indefinitely. We have come to accept the God-hating rhetoric as a part of our culture and, sadly, it barely bothers us anymore. Perhaps we need to become more disturbed by the sinfulness of this world. Then we might be more inclined to actually enter into the fray.
God has called His children to bravely confront the evil forces of this world. We are to engage these giants with confidence, knowing that the LORD is mightier than any other person or power. We should not be discouraged or paralyzed by fear and doubt, but rather advance His cause with courage and persistence. We must not allow Satan to dictate the terms by which we live, but rather we must adhere to the holy and righteous standards of God. We must arm ourselves with the right weapons in order to bring God’s enemies down.
Next week we will discuss one of the closest and most endearing friendships in the Bible. We will also see a rift beginning to develop between King Saul and his courageous servant David. Until then, may we boldly stand before the enemies of God and conquer them valiantly in His strength and for His glory!