David and Goliath.
It’s the classic story, firmly etched in our collective consciousness. The Philistine giant and the young shepherd boy.
Brute strength vs. bold faith.
The Bible presents Goliath as the Philistine champion. Standing over 9 feet tall, this enormous man taunts King Saul and the Israelite camp day after day. His challenge: send your most battle-tested warrior to engage in one-on-one combat. The stakes? The loser’s army must surrender to the victor. On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified (1 Sam. 17:11).
Young David is shuttling back and forth between the battle lines and home at this time. He arrives to the military encampment with some supplies just as Goliath spews forth his jeering derision. Incredulous, David asks the soldiers, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v26)
Are these the words of a naive boy? Is this simply bluster on the part of a greenhorn? Or is this an indication of David’s supreme faith in his God, a God who is greater than any foe?
By the time word gets back to King Saul, David has already decided to accept Goliath’s challenge on behalf of Israel’s God: “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” (v32)
Saul is unconvinced. He can hardly put the fate of his administration in the hands of a zealous shepherd boy. “You are only a boy,” he tells David, “and he has been a fighting man from his youth,” (v33). But this is the key difference between Saul and David, the primary reason David will succeed him as king of Israel: the fate of God’s people is never dependent upon man. It was, is, and always will be the province of YHWH.
And this is precisely the point David sets out to prove. He recounts instances of God’s faithfulness: in the face of lions and bears — threats to the flock — David has borne witness to God’s power to save. It is this confidence — confidence that the Lord indeed is his shepherd — that animates David here as he engages Goliath. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” (v37)
David shuns the king’s battle armor. He rejects any source of security outside of the promise of YHWH. Could the same be said of us? A full pantry, a healthy bank account, the assumption that we have many years ahead of us — we are tempted to find security in all kinds of armor. Yet David shows us a better way, the way of faith. Such naked trust prompts even more taunts from Goliath, for this always the world’s response to such “nonsensical” faith. “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” (v43) Goliath invokes the names of his gods as he prepares for yet another slaying.
Listen to what David: “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. 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.” (45-46)
And then…David runs to the battle line.
David is not the example of stepping out in faith.
David is the example of recklessly running headlong into danger supremely confident that the Lord is on your side.
Because God has slain greater giants than these.
What giants taunt you? Where are the places in your life that feel the most insurmountable?
Pain. Addiction. Insignificance. Grief. Pride. Resentment. Anger. Depression.
God has slain greater giants than these.
Where are you most tempted to find security? In relationship with God? Or anywhere else?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
May we all aspire to the faith of this shepherd boy, a faith undaunted in the face of adversity.
For our God has slain greater giants…