I Sam. 17:1-31
17 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. 4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.[a] 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels[b]; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.[c] His shield bearer went ahead of him. 8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. 12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. 17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah[d] of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance[e] from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.” 20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear. 25 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.” 26 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?” 27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.” 28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” 29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
I Samuel chapter seventeen is one of the most interesting, exciting, and inspiring chapters in the Bible. It records the famous story of David killing the giant, Goliath. Before David faces the giant on the battlefield, however, there is a record of factors that influenced his eventual victory. Let’s learn from eleven of them. Then we too will be prepared to kill the giants in our lives.
1. Recognize that the Enemy Forces are on our Territory
“gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah” (1). The Philistines descended upon Israeli territory, occupied, and possessed it. It did not belong to them. It belonged to Israel. The Philistines were intruders. Knowing this could add to the confidence of a giant killer. But wait, why were they there? When Israel disobeyed God, He allowed her enemies to invade. Israel’s ground would never have been walked on by Philistine armies if Israel had been faithful to her God. In some cases, how we rid ourselves of our giants is related to the question about what we did that gave the giants in our lives entry in the first place? In other cases we fight the good fight of faith to not let them in. In still other cases we fight aggressively to take back territory for King Jesus.
Perhaps the Philistines had heard that Samuel and Saul had had a falling out and that Saul was in depression or suffering from demons. The enemy attacks if we are weak. Let’s not give him any room.
2. The Enemy is Bigger and Stronger than We, but not Bigger than God.
“He was over nine feet tall” (vs. 4). He was of the sons of Anak who had been at Gath in Joshua’s time. “No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive” (Josh 11:22). Goliath would not have even existed had Joshua’s generation completed their God-given assignment to destroy all the vile Cannanites. Unconquered giants will reappear.
Goliath’s monstrous stature made him very formidable especially if his strength and valor were proportionate. The greater the problem the greater the victory and the greater the glory eventually given to God. Recognizing that the problem is more than we ourselves can handle forces us to trust in God.
3. The Giant’s Equipment was Impressive.
“bronze helmet on his head . . . coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels . . . on his legs he wore bronze greaves . . . a bronze javelin his spear was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.” (vs. 5 – 8) Art and armament, as well as nature, had made him terrible. He also had a sword with which David cut off his head which is not even mentioned here.
With all the armor why would he need a shield? The shield bearer went ahead of him. The more armor Goliath claimed the more confident in it he became. Trust in anything other than God is misplaced. His forehead was exposed and that is all God needed. There is a chink in the armor of us all. We need to trust in God, not armor.
4. Giants Hurl Threats.
“Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel. . . ‘This day I defy the ranks of Israel’” (vs. 8-10). To despise and talk big is the way of Satan and all his comrades. Let us guard against it. “They scoff and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. . . But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (Ps. 73:8-28).
One Philistine could never have chased 1,000 Israelites and put 10,000 to flight unless their God forsook them, having been forsaken by them. “How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the Lord have given them up (Duet 32:30)?
5. His Threats are Empty.
“If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects;” (vs. 9) His threats were only bravado for no army would be willing to put all its eggs in one basket and risk all on the success of one man. Furthermore, when David eventually killed Goliath, the Philistines felt no obligation to fulfill this empty promise; they did not submit themselves as servants to Israel though Goliath had said they would. Let us not be deceived by the threats of our enemy. Ninety-four percent of what we fear might happen does not happen to us anyway. Neither will we be distracted by the empty promises he makes. We will let the Bible, not the enemy, tell us the condition of our adversary. He, as Goliath, is not a trustworthy source of information.
6. Others Around us May be Afraid.
“Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified” (vs. 11). Saul was the tallest of the Israelites and should have been their champion. Instead, he showed them how to fear and they followed him.
The people would not have lost their courage if Saul had not lost his. It is not to be expected that if the leader is a coward the followers should be bold.
Notice the contrast between this Saul and the former Saul upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rested. When Nahash the Ammonite challenged a clan in eastern Israel, Saul proved himself a valiant man. See I Sam. 11:6-11.
7. Giant Killers are Humble and Faithful to do Lowly Tasks.
“David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem” (vs. 15).
David’s three older brothers, who may have envied David’s place in the King’s court, are promoted from Bethlehem to Saul’s army, but David is moved again to watch the flock of sheep. It is possible (note Eliab’s treatment of David in vs. 28) that the brothers (or just Eliab), motivated by jealousy, had suggested to their father the removal of David from the King’s court and their own promotion to the king’s army. How did David react?
Far from being proud of the services he had done for the King in his court or from having ambitions of further royal exposure, David not only returned from court to the obscurity of his father’s house, but also went back to the care, toil, and peril of keeping his father’s sheep. It was to his credit that he considered humility more important than the honor of placement in the king’s court. Before honor is humility. He now had the opportunity of meditation and prayer which prepared him for something even greater than all the military exercises of his brother’s military camp.
Violent threats issue forth from Goliath’s bold mouth on the battlefield, but ten miles away in a quiet and obscure valley a shepherd is being groomed to become not only a victorious soldier, but also a gracious and noble king.
8. Giant Killers Serve others—even Those who Belittle, Insult, and Misrepresent them.
“see how your brothers are . . . loaded up and set out as Jesse had directed” (vs. 18-20). David did not ask to go satisfy his curiosity, gain experience, or make observations, but quietly watched the sheep. Then when his father sent him on a lowly errand on which any of his servants might have gone, he humbly served others. He must carry some bread and cheese to his brothers along with roasted grain probably parched corn.
David must still be the lowly servant of the family though he was to eventually become the greatest ornament of it.
He got up early (vs. 20) and, as a faithful man with responsibility for the sheep in mind, gave the charge of them to another keeper. So well did he serve in “little” assignments that God saw he was fit to be made ruler of many things. He learned to obey before he began to command.
Jesse did not realize he was sending his son to the battle front at a critical juncture, but a wise God who orders the time and all circumstances of actions and affairs so as to serve his designs watched with interest as His plan for David unfolded.
9. Giant Killers Have Heavenly Insight into Earthy Problems.
“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God” (vs. 26)? Many can only see battles in physical arenas. Throughout the Bible there are references to two armies, two battles, two realms. Jacob said “now I have become two groups” (Gen. 32:10). Mahanaim means two camps and is a possible reference to an invisible group of spiritual forces accompanying the physical group. When David attacked the Philistines from behind, the armies of the Lord had advanced ahead of them as recorded in II Sam 5:24. Eph. 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” When we learn how to fight at the invisible spiritual level we realize the battle is the Lord’s. Nothing can stop such a soldier.
He becomes a giant killer.
10. Giant Killers Kindly Handle Opposition From Those Who Should Be Supportive.
“Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him. . .” (vs. 28) Eliab was David’s oldest brother and David was the youngest. It may have been customary with Eliab, as with many older brothers, to trample upon his younger brother. Those who exalt themselves over their juniors may perhaps live to see themselves by God’s righteous use of weak things—people who trust in God’s strength—placed under, not over, those they abused. Time may come when the elder may serve the younger.
When we are opposed in our own families by scorn, let us remember that our real conflict in such a case is not with the scorner, but with ourselves. Let our effort be not to silence him, but to control ourselves, and then we shall succeed in obtaining a victory over both.
If you want to show a manly spirit, conquer yourself. If you wish to be brave, subdue your anger and learn to control yourself; if you wish to do great deeds, show it in little things, show it in the duties of common life, show it in the things which the world counts for little, but which are highly esteemed in the sight of God.
In this story everything is said to make us aware of the apparent feebleness, weakness and human inadequacy of the Israelite champion. Yet he was able to rule his own spirit and that made him a conqueror.
The might of man is not as important as man’s trust in the living God. To not understand this is to fall down and worship brute force declaring brute force to be the Lord.
David had right and reason on his side and knew it. He did not stoop to Eliab’s level, but rather with a soft answer turned away his brother’s wrath.
This conquest of his own passion was in some respects more honorable than his conquest of Goliath. It was not time for David to quarrel with his brother when the Philistines were upon them.
“. . . and with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert (vs.28)? Eliab implies that David had been irresponsible, but in fact, David had been quite responsible. David did not fight back or defend himself; there were more important matters to tend to.
He would not be distracted by the ill-will of his brother from his thought of engaging the Philistine. Those that undertake great and public services must not think it strange if they are opposed by those from whom they had reason to expect support. We learn to humbly go on with our work in the face of both the threats of our enemies and the insults of our friends. Therefore David, “turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter” (vs.30).
David might have used his acquaintance with Saul at court to get himself positioned to fight Goliath, but his modesty will not let him do that. He worked his way up through the ranks. “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine” (vs. 26)?
11. God Provides Open Doors For Giant Killers.
“What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him” (vs.31).
What matter? “Now what have I done? Can’t I even speak” (vs. 29)? “Is there not a cause? (KJV)? David looked above and beyond his relationship with Eliab to the cause behind Eliab. Do you have a cause, a reason, a motive, a project, a vision, a target? I hope so. If not, you can do anything—whatever—and never know you missed the target. If you don’t have a target you can shoot anywhere and never miss—but you will also never hit a target.
In verse 8 Goliath had challenged Israel to “Chose a man and have him come down to me.” Israel needed a man. And now after the army had fled, David had asked his questions, shown his mettle, and displayed his spirit, Israel was finally about to respond to that challenge. Someone overheard David. Someone overheard this young man who had a cause. Israel was about to find a man. Often in battles one man is needed to fight the battles for others. The need of that hour, and the need of this hour, is for a man, a person. Will you be that person?
We are beginning to see through the life of David how God builds and empowers His Soldiers. Do you want to serve in God’s army? Do you want God to use you? Do you want to do for Him more than is humanly possible? The preceding eleven Scripture-Based ideas can help make you the Christian soldier, leader, pastor, evangelist, missionary or teacher you want to become for God—your Commander-in-Chief. Soldier, step forward!