The armies of two nations have gathered for battle. On one side, the armies of Israel take their stand at the top of a hill. On the other side, the armies of the Philistines take their stand on top the hill. In between the two armies is a valley, the location designated for battle. The Philistines had a champion warrior on their side and he was a champion with good reason. This champion makes Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime look puny. He was a man ripped with muscles such that he could carry armor and a helmet with a combined weight of 125 pounds. He carried with him a 15 pound spear and a sword. Not only was this champion full of muscles, but he was tall, standing 9 feet, 9 inches tall. The champion warrior from Gath was appropriate named “Goliath.”
Rather than engage in armies in a full battle, Goliath offers a challenge. Send one of your best warriors to fight me. Whoever wins the fight will enslave the other nation. The offer is a duel. One on one, winner takes all.
Then the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel today. Send me a man so we can fight each other!” When Saul and all Israel heard these words from the Philistine, they lost their courage and were terrified (17:10-11). Every morning and every evening for 40 days Goliath would walk forward and take his stand, issuing his intimidating challenge.
Some of the soldiers in Israel’s armies included David’s three oldest brothers: Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah. Remember last week we noticed that these three were passed over from being anointed king. David is back at the house taking care of the sheep, like he has been doing. But David is also going up to the battle lines to see what is happening. One of the times that David went to see what was going on, his father Jesse had him take food to his brothers. This time was the first time that David had heard Goliath give the challenge.
David spoke to the men who were standing with him: “What will be done for the man who kills that Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Just who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26). Eliab, David’s older brother, becomes angry when he hears David asking these questions. “Why did you come down here?” he asked. “Who did you leave those few sheep with in the wilderness? I know your arrogance and your evil heart—you came down to see the battle!” (17:28).
Saul finds out what David has been asking and requests for David to come and see him. Notice the dialog between Saul and David. David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged by him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” But Saul replied, “You can’t go fight this Philistine. You’re just a youth, and he’s been a warrior since he was young” (17:32-33). Saul essentially tells David that he is crazy for thinking that he can go fight Goliath. But David responds that the Lord has delivered him from the hand of lions and bears and the Lord will deliver him from the hand of the Philistine.
Well, we know what Goliath is wearing. The muscle-ripped, nine foot nine inch behemoth has armor, a spear, a sword, and a shield bearer. Saul attempts to equip David, but David could not walk with Saul’s armor because he was not used to wearing military clothing. So David grabs his weapons: a staff and a sling. The shepherd is ready for the mighty champion warrior. This is a mismatch on every level. No one would look at these two combatants and think that David stood a chance. I am surprised that Saul even let David go out there, considering that failure meant that Israel would be subjugated to the Philistines. Perhaps after 40 days, Saul figured that all hope was lost anyway. So why not give David a chance? But David is not ready yet. David goes into the valley and find five smooth stones for himself.
These rocks are by no means small pebbles. “After three seasons of excavation, we have found nearly three dozen slingstones. Most are roughly round and slightly over two inches in diameter, from the size of a billiard ball to a tennis ball.” —archaeologist Dr. Bryant Wood (Associates for Biblical Research). The Romans and the Greeks used slings with rocks a size slightly larger than golf balls. These are the kinds of rocks we should be envisioning, a size roughly between a golf ball and a tennis ball. David picks out five stones. Why not two stones? Why not one stone? Why five? We will consider the answer to this in a moment.
David now steps out as the chosen one. Goliath comes down from the hill and is ready to fight. But when Goliath sees who Israel has chosen, he is in disbelief. Have you ever been called “twiggy” or “beanpole” when you were young? That is exactly the insult that Goliath hurls at David. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field” (17:42-44). It’s over for you, boy.
But David does not back down. David does not cower in fear. David does not retreat. Look at how David responds: David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel’s armies — you have defied Him. Today, the LORD will hand you over to me. Today, I’ll strike you down, cut your head off, and give the corpses of the Philistine camp to the birds of the sky and the 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” (17:45-47).
And with those words, the battle had begun. Goliath started forward to attack David. David ran quickly in to engage Goliath in battle. David put his hand into his bag, takes out a stone, slung it, and hit Goliath in the forehead, causing Goliath to fall to the ground. The scriptures do not say that the stone killed Goliath, but that David took Goliath’s sword and killed him with it. With this victory, the rest of the armies of Israel drove the Philistines all the way back to their land.
All of us must face our giants in life. All of us will have challenges and trials that appear insurmountable. The site of Goliath caused terror to rip through their bodies. We have those times when we do not know what to do as life crushes us. What did David do to have the faith and strength to attack Goliath when no one else would? What set him apart so that he was a person after God’s own heart?
1. David looked to the past (17:34-37). When Saul pulls David aside and tells him that he is not able to go up against Goliath, David relied upon what God had done in the past to know that God would help him now. Too often we forget to think back to how God has gotten us through our previous trial. David looked back at how God protected him from lions and bears. Why wouldn’t God continue to help now? How many times God has brought us through difficulties that we could not see how it would work out! I must rely upon what God has done for me in the past. My past experience of family turmoil and divorce has helped me during this time of difficulty with Grace. The years were painful, but at the end of the trial, my life has turned out well. God has carried me through those difficult years and I know He will carry me through these difficult years. What giants has God delivered you from? Look to the past and know that God will deliver again.
2. David made God’s glory his priority. Why did David decide to go to battle against Goliath? It was not for his own personal glory. David was not trying to garner the attention of Israel. David was concerned about the glory of God. “Just who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26). Who does this Philistine think he is believing he can mock the armies that are led by God? Again, look at verses 45-47. David is coming in the name of the Lord, not by his own power. David is relying upon God to give him victory because this Philistine is defying the power of God. When we are facing our giant, we need to make God our priority. Often, we decide to make our comfort our priority when life is not going well. This is exactly what the armies of Israel do. Rather than believe that God will bring them victory, they cower in fear. They did not make God their priority but their own comforts. In our trial, we are to continue to reflect the glory of God.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).
3. Perseverance when facing your giant. David did not pull a “Jonah” and try to run away from the challenge. David did not say that it was someone else’s problem, not his. He ran toward the giant to engage in battle. But he took with him five smooth stones. Why five stones? Why not one stone? I only have one guess. If David missed, he was ready to take another shot at Goliath. David was not about to turn and run away. David was not about to give up and crumble under this difficulty. David took his stand and he was going to sling his stones until he hit Goliath. David was ready to persevere. That is what our giant is supposed to teach us is perseverance.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance… (Romans 5:3).
Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful (James 5:11).
We cannot give up in trials. We need to be ready to reload and fight through our circumstances. The five stones suggest that he was ready to keep trying. He was going to fight Goliath to the end. If he failed, he would simply try again until this giant was defeated.