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 family from taxes in Israel.”
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?”
What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
1 Samuel 17:23-26 & 31-32
There are some moments in life that are just BIG. You can just tell when they are happening to you that this is a BIG moment. For me one of those moments occurred when I was four years old and my parents told me I had to start going to school. I don't even know if I knew what school was, but I remember being devastated. I bargained with them. I begged, but to no avail. It was time for me to start school, and I just knew that this was going to change my life forever. That was 1987, and now some 25 years later I am still in school (currently working on my MDiv). Perhaps, I was right to be so devastated. Well, today we are going to look at a story in the Bible about one of these BIG moments. Not only is this story a BIG moment for the main character but it is also a BIG moment in the unfolding of God’s plan of redemption for His people. This is the story of the coming of age, the big entrance, of the king through whom the true Messiah would come. This is the story of David and Goliath.
I encourage you to read all of I Samuel 17. It is a very interesting read, but for now I will set the stage for you. After years of relative peace, the Philistines invade Israelite territory and the two armies encamp on either side of the great Valley of Elah. (Baker Commentary on the Bible). One Philistine makes his way down into the valley: a 9' 9" impenetrable giant named Goliath. There he defies the armies of Israel, offering to engage in representative battle wherein instead of the two armies killing thousands, just two men fight on their behalf.
But verse 11 tells us that Israel's champion is cowering in fear along with the rest of the people. King Saul should have been the one to fight Goliath. Not only was he head and soldiers above everyone else in Israel (I Samuel 9:2 & 10:23) and therefore the only one in the camp physically qualified to fight Goliath; but it was quite literally what he had been recruited to do (I Samuel 8:20). Scripture tells us that one of the reasons the people of Israel originally approached the prophet Samuel to give them a king was so they would have someone to lead them out to war and fight their battles for them. Saul literally has a chance to fight their battle for them, but he is cowering in fear. (c.f. Numbers 13:31-33).
Goliath’s challenges continued twice a day for forty days! That is more than a month and no one is willing to accept the challenge. The onus is on Saul. He is the guy. It has to be him. In the verses above, you can almost see how eager Saul is to find someone to fight in his place. He has put together an incentive program to entice someone, anyone into battle in his place. But not even that is enough to prompt a volunteer. That is, until David comes to visit his brothers.
David does two things that are most interesting. First, David sees things differently. He is not primarily worried about his honor or glory or even his safety. He is concerned with God’s glory. The men of Israel call Goliath “this man,” David refers to him as “this uncircumcised Philistine.” In David's eyes Goliath is a foreigner who is outside the covenant of God and therefore not in His favor. Moreover, he isn't simply “defying Israel” as the other men say, he is “defying the armies of the living God.” David sees Goliath's defiance as an affront to God, and he acts immediately because he is zealous for God's glory (Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary). The men of Israel and Saul have heard Goliath issue this challenge 80 times and none have been willing to accept it. David has heard the challenge one time, and he acts immediately. He expresses interest right away.
The second amazing thing David does is he acts on his own because he is zealous for God's glory. Notice, God doesn’t tell David to do this. David takes the initiative. There are some things that we don’t need God to tell us to do. David already knows the story of the 10 spies who were afraid of the giants (Numbers 13:31-33). He also knows that God promised Israel that she would possess the Promised Land and that when she fought against the inhabitants, He would fight on her behalf. David doesn’t need an invitation. He needs to act. He needs to put into practice what he knows to be true about God... what he knows God has commanded him to do. He needs to trust in the promises God has given. David simply saw an opportunity and seized it.
What about you? Do you ever sit around waiting for some special word from God to do what you already know is His will? You don’t wait for God to tell you to go see the hottest new movie or to do anything else you want to do. Don’t wait for some special word to do the things you know you ought to do. Be zealous for God's glory and act! You don't need a special word from the Lord to share the gospel with that family member. You don't need a special word from the Lord to give your extra coat or money to the poor. You don't need a special word from the Lord to serve Him with your whole heart. He has already commanded these things. You simply need to act! What will you be zealous for? What is worth spending your life on? David is concerned for God’s glory not his own. He looks to build a name and a legacy for God, not for himself. What will you build? As you answer that question, remember that God’s glory is the only thing that will last for eternity.
For further reading...
- I Samuel 17- Read the whole story.