52 Major Stories of the Bible - Lesson 14

David and Goliath

This is not a story primarily about a young man defeating a great warrior (I Samuel 16-17). It is an account of how faith propels us to trust God, no matter what the appearances.

Bill Mounce
52 Major Stories of the Bible
Lesson 14
Watching Now
David and Goliath

I. Introduction

A. Samuel Anoints David

B. Saul Meets David

II. David and Goliath

A. Initial Confrontation

B. David's Interaction

C. David Confronts Goliath

III. Lessons of Goliath: Step Out In Faith

  • Genesis 1 is the foundational chapter for the entire Bible. It not only tells us how everything started, but it establishes the basic teaching on who God is and who we are in relationship to him.

  • On the sixth day of creation we learn that people are the apex of creation, stamped with the image of God. This is the source of human dignity, and it is why we pursue spiritual growth, so we will look more like him.

  • Genesis 3 describes how Adam and Eve sinned, how their sin broke the relationship with God for them and for all people, and God’s promise of a redeemer.

  • Genesis 6–9 is not a children’s story. It shows God’s anger against our sin, and yet also shows that he is a redeeming God. Like Noah, it challenges us to step out in faith.

  • Genesis 12:1–15:6 focuses on one man, Abraham, who is part of the fulfillment of the promise God made in the Garden to redeem humanity. Abraham must do two things: believe, and act on that belief. When he does, God makes an eternal covenant with him and with all his descendants, Israel and the church. We too must follow the pattern of our father: believe, and act on that belief.

    The authors of the New Testament refer to Abraham as the person with whom God made the covenant as the father of the nation of Israel. At the time God established the covenant, the man's name was Abram. God changed it later to Abraham and that's how he is referred to in subsequent references.

  • The story of Joseph in Genesis 37–50 is an account of God’s faithfulness to his promises to Abraham, his omnipotence (all-powerful), and his omniscience (all-knowing). Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but God worked through their evil to accomplish good — the salvation of the entire nation of Abraham’s descendants. We too are called to faith in God’s promises.

  • In Exodus 7:14–Exodus 10, we read of God’s salvation of the Israelite nation. The Egyptians had enslaved them, but through Moses God punished the Egyptians with ten plagues and secured the Israelite’s freedom. God is faithful to his promises, and all praise and honor go to him.

  • The Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20, are not rules to follow, but they give form and structure to how our love for God (the Shema) should manifest itself in how we treat God and others.

  • Moses wants to see God. Exodus 33 contains the account of how God could not let Moses see him or Moses would have died; but he does allow Moses to see the back of his glory. This is the essence of Christianity: a desire to see God. After all, God created us to have fellowship with us. We were created for community with him.

  • The book of Leviticus is consumed with the holiness of God, that he is separate from all sin. The sacrificial system teaches us that sin violates God’s rules, which extracts the high cost of death.  But Leviticus also teaches us that God forgives, that a sacrifice can pay the penalty of our sin (if we repent), and in so doing prepares us for the cross of Jesus.

  • The Shema is the central affirmation of the Old Testament: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). It calls us to rigorous monotheism in which we refuse to worship idols of any shape.

  • The book of Judges shows the necessity of covenant renewal, how each generation must decide for itself if it will follow God. Once the Israelites were given the Promised Land, for the most part they failed to renew the covenant and failed to receive the blessings from God. The same is true of our own families.

  • I Samuel tells of the shift from the nation being ruled by Judges to that of a king. Israel was supposed to be a theocracy, a kingdom ruled by God, and so the people’s desire for a king was a rejection of God. Saul, the first king, did not learn the lesson that God is still king, and what matters for us is to remain faithful. Unfortunately, many people make the same mistake as Saul.

    Update: When Dr. Mounce refers to "theodicy" at the first of the lecture, he means, "theocracy." We have updated the outline and the transcription. We will update the audio when we are able.

  • This is not a story primarily about a young man defeating a great warrior (I Samuel 16-17). It is an account of how faith propels us to trust God, no matter what the appearances.

  • Psalm 23 is David's cry of faith that his divine Shepherd will provide and protect him in all situations, and that God is lavish in his love for his sheep.

  • Psalm 51 gives the pattern for true biblical confession, which admits our own guilt and God's justice, makes no excuses, and appeals not to our good works but to God's mercy.

  • Solomon was the wisest of all people, and yet he died a fool because he ignored his own advice (Proverbs). It is not enough to know the truth; you have to do it. Wisdom begins with knowing that God knows best.

  • Job learned that bad things happen to good people and bad people alike. The question is, will you continue to trust God in the difficult times? Is he worthy of our trust when we don’t know all the answers and our lives are filled with pain?

  • 1 Kings 14–18 tells the story of Elijah and his battle with false religion. The word of the day was “syncretism,” the mixing of two religions. In our day, we are faced with the same challenge, especially the mixing of Christianity and secular culture. Elijah challenges us to not have divided hearts or divided loyalties.

  • Isaiah 6:1-8 tells us of Isaiah’s visit to God’s throne, and there we learn the true meaning of worship: the cycle of revelation and response. As God reveals himself to us, and we must respond appropriately. It asks the question, ”How big is your God?”

  • Isaiah 52–53 give us one of the most exact and theologically helpful looks into the death of Christ. Isaiah prophecies about a servant who was to come, whom God would punish for our sins. This, of course, is a prophecy about Jesus. Here we learn that there is no sin God cannot forgive, and that peace comes not from within ourselves but from outside, from God.

  • Micah prophesied three sets of what we call a “Woe” (judgment”) and “Weal” (restoration). The Israelites believed all they had to do was go through the external motions of worship, and then they could live any way they wanted the rest of the week. This brings judgment, but with judgment God promises a future restoration.

  • Hosea prophesied to people who were caught in persistent sin. Their sin caught them in a downward spiral beginning with idolatry and enforced by luxury. But even at the bottom of spiral, after the people have experienced the necessary punishment, God is still present to forgive. Sinners are called “whores,” living unfaithful lives.

  • Habakkuk asks the question of why do the wicked appear to flourish and the righteous suffer. At the root of his question is whether or not God is righteous. Because Habakkuk asks in faith, God answers his question by telling him to wait. Eventually, the wicked are punished and the righteous are rewarded. In the meantime, the righteous person lives by their faith that God is a righteous God. 

  • Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied before and during the exile, when God’s people were conquered by the Babylonians, preaching God's judgment as well as the promise of hope. The hope was the New Covenant where God's law would be written on the person's heart and empowered through the work of God's Spirit.

  • The book of Lamentations teaches us that there is an end to God’s patience with sin. It is a national lament in which Israel expresses their deep sorrow over sin. It starts by being honest about the cause of sin, not blaming anyone but themselves. But it concludes by expressing their faith in the God who forgives.

  • Back in Genesis 3:15, God promised to do something about sin. The Old Testament shows God working to keep his promise, a promise that is eventually fulfilled in Jesus Christ. But unlike popular expectation, Jesus was more than just a human being. He was fully God at the same time he was fully human. But it is not enough to know these facts; you must receive God’s blessing in order to walk in relationship with God.

  • The Old Testament ends on a note of promise, that God would send Elijah to prepare the people for their coming savior, the Messiah. This Elijah turns out to be John the Baptist, who prepares the people by teaching them about repentance. Much to their surprise, the people learned that being born Jewish was of no advantage, and that they too had to learn that they have nothing of value to offer God if they are to enter his kingdom.

  • Perhaps the most common term used about Christians is being “born again,” or “reborn.” This comes from the account of the Jewish leader Nicodemus. Jesus tells him that if he is to enter God’s kingdom, he cannot get there naturally, through what he can do. Only the supernatural work of God’s Spirit in making us new — so new that it is a rebirth — can accomplish our salvation. All this is explained by the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16.

  • Do you want to be blessed by God? Jesus tells us how this happens with eight statements at the beginning of his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” Contrary to popular belief, blessing comes through recognizing our spiritual depravity, mourning over our sin, and as a result being meek, pure in heart, and pursuing peace. How will the world respond? It will persecute you, which is also a blessing.

  • Jesus teaches us that prayer begins with us orienting ourselves to our heavenly father, being most concerned with his glory and the advance of his kingdom, and concludes with our admission of total dependence on him for our physical and spiritual needs. Prayer is primarily about God.

  • Worry carries the illusion that we have some control and that worry can accomplish something. Of course, it can do no such thing. Disciples are to have unwavering loyalty to God. As we see Gods care of his creation, we can rest assured that he will also care for us. Our focus is to be on his kingdom and his righteous; in return, he will simply give us what we need.

  • Many years before Christ, God told Moses that his name is “I AM.” Jesus picks this name up to assert that he is in fact the Great I AM, and as such he says things like, “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world.” The mystery of the Trinity is that there is one God, and yet God is three – Father, Son, Spirit. This is difficult to understand, and yet we should not expect to know everything there is to know about God.

  • When Jesus calls us to follow him, as one person has said, he bids us come and die. Die to our personal ambitions, and live daily as one who has died to himself and lives for God. Only disciples are in heaven.

  • What is the single most important thing you can do? What is the central thing required of us by God? It is to love him him with everything we are. Our love must be emotional (not just obedience) and it must be personal (loving God and not things about him). But if we love God, we must then love our neighbor.

  • Two major events await the disciples: the destruction of the temple and Jesus’ return. There will be signs, warning them to flee Jerusalem, which happened in A.D. 70. But there are no warning signs for when Jesus will return and this age will end. The disciple’s role is not to wonder about when this will happen — not even Jesus knows — but to live a life of preparedness.

  • In Jesus’ last teaching before his death and resurrection, among other things he taught the disciples about the coming Spirit who will convict the world of its sin, show the world Jesus’ righteousness, and convict the world of its coming judgment. We know this “Spirit” to be the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.

  • The greatest act of salvation before the cross was God freeing the Israelites from Egypt. To celebrate that event, God instituted the Passover celebration, commemorating God’s graciousness act of passing over the Israelite houses and killing the first-born of only the Egyptian homes. But now God is about to perform and even greater salvation event, Jesus dying on the cross. Christians are to celebrate Passover not looking back to Egypt but looking at Jesus’ death and forward to his eventual return.

  • The death and resurrection of Jesus is the culmination of not only Jesus' life but of all history to that point. Jesus died on the cross so that we can be friends of God, and he was shown to have conquered death by his resurrection from the grave. The temple curtain, which symbolized the separation between God and people, was torn in two, from the top to the bottom, and we can now live in direct relationship with God.

  • Jesus’ final act on earth was to commission his followers. Their central mission is to make disciples. They are to make new disciples by sharing the gospel and baptizing them; and they are to make fully-devoted disciples by teaching people to obey everything Jesus taught. Because God is sovereign over all, we must do this. Because he will never leave us, we are able to do this.

  • During the Jewish festival of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled and the Holy Spirit came and empowered all of Jesus’ followers, giving them supernatural power to, among other things, speak in human languages they had not learned. Peter explains the phenomena as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and then preaches the basic message found throughout Acts: Jesus lived, died, was raised form the dead, and therefore all people are called to repent of their misunderstanding of who Jesus is.

  • The church is not a building or an activity. The church is the sum total of all true believers. Christ is the head. We are the body. We are a family. We are the temple of God, the place that he inhabits.

  • Justification is the doctrine of being declared not guilty of our sins. It is a work of God alone; we do not help. In Romans 1:16–17 and 3:21–26, Paul makes it clear that this declaration of righteousness is based not on what we do (“works”) but on what we believe about Jesus (“faith”), that Jesus did on the cross for us what we could not do for ourselves.

  • We are not only saved by God’s grace, but his grace continues to sustain us throughout our life. One way that God’s grace shows itself is in how we give, financially. God’s grace enables to to both want to give and to be able to give. If someone is not giving, they should wonder about the condition of their heart and why God’s grace is not active in it.

  • In Romans 5–8, Paul reminds us of the many reasons why we are joyful. We are at peace with God. We are reconciled to him. We have been set free from sin. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives within us. We are adopted into God’s family, assured that we are his children. This is the joy of the righteous life.

  • Paul wants the church in Philippi to understand humility. They should agree on one central focus, and that is a humility that stems from a right understanding of who you are in Christ. As an example, we look no further than Jesus, who is God, lowering himself to be human, and in return being exalted. In response, we should take great care at working out the implications of what it means to be saved.

  • Christians are people of the book. We believe that all of Scripture came from the very mouth of God. It is true in all it affirms and authoritative over our lives. The challenge is to come to the point where you really believe this.

  • The book of Hebrews is a deep theological study on the superiority of Christ over everyone and everything else. Interspersed throughout the teaching are the “Warning” passages in which the author encourages his readers to not fall away from their faith. If people do leave the Christian faith, they can have no assurance that they truly are Christians.

  • James tells us that there is nothing more difficult to control than  the tongue. It destroys people’s reputation, often under the guise that what is being said is accurate. We are hurt, so we verbally lash out. We want to be well thought of, so we feign piety. The only way to gain any victory over the tongue is to work on the heart, since it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks. Unfortunately, gossip often is the natural language of the church, but there can be victory.

  • 1 Peter asks one of the fundamental question of life is, how can an all-powerful, all-good God allow pain and suffering. It helps us grapple with this question by pointing our attention to the realities of our lives, especially the fact that we are exiles on earth and our true home is heaven. We are to recognize in the midst of suffering that God is still at work for our good.

  • The letter we call 1 John is primarily about love. We have been loved by God, and so we should love others as well. Love is not  some simplistic emotion but it involves action: God loved us and therefore sent his Son. Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other.

  • The Bible closes with the prophecy of how all things will end. While there are many questions as to the precise meaning of this book, it’s central message is crystal clear. God will not keep us from suffering and persecution; it is going to get worst; God calls us to be faithful in the midst of our pain. If we are faithful to the end, we will be rewarded. This is what we are waiting for, a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no pain, no sorrow, no sin. The Garden of Eden will be restored, at last. We were created for fellowship with God, and we long for the day when Jesus will return again and take us home.

English | Hindi | Swahili

The Bible is one continuous story filled with adventure, heroes and villains, triumph and defeat, good and evil, love and jealousy, plot twists and ultimately, a happy ending. As you read each of the short Bible stories along the way, you begin to see how the Bible stories combine to form the structure of the one big story. The individual characters and their experiences of tragedy and triumph draw you into their Bible stories and help you see the overarching themes of cosmic love, judgment and redemption.

Telling stories is an effective way of communicating ideas so you remember them. Immersing yourself into the 26 Bible stories from the Old Testament and 26 from the New Testament helps you to understand and internalize the character of God, the splendor of his creation, his love for humans, the evil and destructiveness of sin, the wonder of the plan of redemption and the completeness of restoration at the end of history.

Each of these stories can be considered as Bible stories for kids because the plot and main teaching of the story is something that most children will understand. They are also Bible stories for youth and adults because if you are wise, the examples you see and the lessons you learn will guide you for a lifetime.


Recommended Books

52 Major Stories of the Bible - Student Guide

52 Major Stories of the Bible - Student Guide

The Bible is one continuous story, from the story of creation to the story of Jesus' future return at the end of time. And yet there are smaller, pivotal stories that...

52 Major Stories of the Bible - Student Guide

Dr. Bill Mounce
52 Major Stories of the Bible
David and Goliath
Lesson Transcript



Here we are going to look at the fourteenth of the 52 major events in the Bible, the story of David and Goliath. One of the best-known stories in the Bible, a story that has made itself into the vernacular of Christians and non-Christians alike. I often hear non-Christians talk about “hang ‘em high as Hamen” or they talk about Goliath. I wonder if they have any idea where their language is coming from. So we will look at David and Goliath in I Samuel this morning.

Let’s pray. Father, I understand in my own life and I understand in others that it is one thing to say that the battle belongs to You, it is one thing to sing that we trust in the name of the Lord, but on Monday morning when we are faced with that neighbor or coworker that we know so clearly you have told us to share Christianity with, that we are to build relationships and that we have been given the authority by the King of the universe to do so, it is still hard. Father, we pray that as we look at David and Goliath, we will be looking at ourselves and whoever it is in our lives that are presenting the challenge for us. We pray, like David, that we will be people after Your heart, that we will be people of faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Well, the story of King David starts in the book of I Samuel, Chapter 16. We saw last week how Saul had rejected God and so in turn, God rejected Saul as king over Israel.

Samuel Anoints David

Starting in Chapter 16, we see how Samuel secretly anoints David as king. It is an interesting story. God says, “Go to Bethlehem, find Jesse, one of his sons is to be the new king of Israel. So Samuel contacts Jesse and they meet and Jesse parades his sons in front of Samuel. I Samuel 16, starting at verse 6, “When they [the sons] came he [Samuel] looked on Eliab, the oldest, and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.’” See, Samuel’s looking on the outside and he sees someone who looks like a king and so assumes that Eliab is the next king of Israel. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature because I have rejected him.” This is the Hebrew way of saying, “I have not chosen him.” “For the Lord sees not as a man sees, man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Samuel was looking on the outside. He saw someone that looked regal and he was wrong. So Jesse continues to parade his sons in front of Samuel and each time the Lord says to Samuel, “Nope, not him, not him, not him.” We get to verse 11 and Samuel says to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” Jesse relies, “Well, there remains yet the youngest. He’s out keeping sheep.” It is as if he said, “Oh, no, he’s not the one you are looking for. He’s the youngest, he’s out there dealing with those stupid sheep.” But Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him for we will not sit down until he comes here.” Even David’s father was looking on the outside. He was looking at the youngest of his boys and thinking, “Surely this isn’t the king.” Well, David comes and the Lord tells Samuel, “This is the king.” He anoints David in private because Samuel is a little frightened of Saul.

Saul Meets David

There is another story in the second half of Chapter 16, starting in verse 14, “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” Saul had rejected God, so God rejected Saul as king over Israel and sends an evil spirit to torment him. Evidently the only thing that would soothe Saul during these times of torment was music, so he said, “Go find someone who is a good musician.” One of Saul’s associates says, verse 18, “I have seen the son of Jesse, the Bethlemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence. The Lord is with him.” So, without knowing that Samuel had already anointed David as king, Saul brings David to be the court musician to play during these troublesome times. Evidently David went back and forth between tending sheep and playing music for Saul. That is the background to the story of David and Goliath, which starts in chapter 17. By the way, I am going to spend most of following retelling the story and filling in some of the holes.

David and Goliath

Initial Confrontation

In verse 1-11, we see the initial confrontation between Goliath and Israel’s army. The two armies are drawn up in battle in a place called the Valley of Elah, which is about 17 miles southwest of Jerusalem. The valley is between two and three miles apart, so the two armies are probably on opposite sides of the valley. We read about the confrontation beginning with Goliath in verse 4, “And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath whose height was six cubits and a span.” (He was about nine feet tall.) “He had a helmet of bronze on his head and he was armed with a coat of mail and the weight of the coat was 5000 shekels of bronze.” (About 125 pounds.) “And he had bronze armor on his legs and a javelin of bronze swung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron" (about 15 pounds, just in the point) "and his shield-bearer went before him.” Pretty awesome warrior for anyone, I would suspect. A huge man, a giant. I want to mention that the description of the armor and of Goliath’s size is more than an historical curiosity. The author is preparing us for the main theological point that he will make in the story. He wants to describe from a human standpoint how awesome Goliath is. So Goliath comes and he makes his challenge starting in verse 8, “He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel,’ Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I a Philistine and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants, but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.’ And the Philistine said, ‘I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man that we may fight together.’” He did this twice a day for forty days.

It was actually rather common in ancient warfare to choose a champion from both sides and have them fight instead of having the armies fight. It is never quite clear in history whether the losing side really cared at the end of the day, but it was not that uncommon of a scene. However, this was a little one-sided, was it not? A little hard to take on Goliath. It is similar to Mike Tyson challenging me to a fight. I workout, but I am no Goliath. Most of the depictions of this story in art are actually quite gory. They depict almost a preadolescence David holding this gargantuan, empty, bloody hairy head. Look at verse 11 to see how the Israelites responded: “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” The Israelites responded in fear. Please hear this: Verse 11 is not just historical curiosity. Verse 11 is a theological condemnation for their lack of faith. All they way through the Old Testament God has been making it abundantly clear that He is the God of the Israelites, that He is their warrior, that He will fight their battle. Jericho made that pretty clear, that He will give them the Promised land. Yet the Israelites look at this giant and respond in fear instead of faith, instead of holding to the promises of God, instead of believing that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. How far they have come from the time of the Exodus. How far the nation has come from the time of watching God part the Red Sea. How far they have come from knowing the God who gives them their Promised Land by destroying their enemies. Verse 11 is theological primarily and only secondly historical.

David’s Interaction

There is the initial confrontation between Goliath and the armies of Israel. In the next set of accounts, we read about David’s interactions with the army, with his big brother, and eventually with Saul. So, David comes onto the scene; Jesse wants to know how his older sons are doing. He says to David, “Take some food, see how they are doing.” He goes, and when he gets there he leaves the food and the other stuff with the baggage keepers at the back of the army. Then he hears Goliath make his challenge. Let's pick up the story in verse 23, “All the men of Israel, when they saw the man fled from him and were much afraid.” See, they are responding in fear, but David responds in faith. That is the central contrast of this story. Look at verse 26, halfway through. David says, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” You see, David sees things through the eyes of faith. David sees things as God sees them. David sees that Goliath is not so much defying the armies of Israel as he is defying the God of the armies of Israel. David knows that God has promised to defeat the enemies of his people. It does not matter how big the enemy is, because David has faith and not fear. David responds as God intends him to. David believes God. From a straight literary standpoint, Chapter 17 is an amazing chapter. There are all kinds of formal techniques and puns used, especially contrasts. The contrasts include the strong contrast between the soldier’s words of resignation, verse 25, and David’s words of indignation, verse 26. The men of Israel called Goliath “this man.” David calls him “this uncircumcised Philistine.” They say that Goliath has come out to defy Israel. David says he has come out to defy the armies of the living God. They refer to Goliath’s potential victor whoever might kill him as “The man who kills him.” David refers to him as “the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel.” Now what you will not pick up in the English is that the same basic Hebrew word lies behind the words “defy” and “disgrace”. Goliath is defying Israel and David is about to remove this disgrace from Israel. In short, the men of Israel see an unbeatable, fearsome giant who is reproaching Israel. David sees merely an uncircumcised Philistine who has the audacity to reproach the armies of the living God. It is all in how you look at things, right? We can either look through the eyes of fear and see a defiant giant, or we can look through the eyes of faith and see a disgrace that God is about to remove.

That is the central contrast in the story of David and Goliath: of faith and fear. If you have a big brother, you are going to highlight this next passage. Look at it. “Now Eliab, the eldest bother, heard when David spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David and he said, ‘Why have you come down?'” In other words, “Why have you come down from Bethlehem?” “And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?” It is not a compliment. “You big woos!” is what he is saying. “I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What did I do now? Was is not for the Word?” Eliab thinks he knows David’s heart, and he thinks that David has come down to gawk at them. Earlier in the story explains that Jesse’s eldest three sons became soldiers and David stayed to take care of the sheep. Eliab thinks he know his little brother and thinks that he’s just come to gawk. Well, the fact of the matter is that, like Samuel, Eliab is only looking on the outside. All he sees is his little brother who is not good for anything except keeping sheep. David says, “What did I do this time?” Saul also heard David’s boast, David’s statement of faith, that David was willing to fight Goliath. So Saul called David in and, once again, the first thing that we see is Saul looking on the outside and all he sees is a young man. He says, “Well, I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to try to fight, but you’re just a youth.” Samuel, Jesse, Eliab and now Saul, were all doing the same thing. They looked at the outside and they see the monster Goliath and they see this little, itty-bitty shepherd boy named David. Well, David takes an interesting defense. He starts off by saying (in our vernacular), “You know, I’m not a wimp. Being a shepherd is not as easy as you think it is and I have, through the power of God, killed both a bear and a lion in defending my sheep.” Look down at verse 36: “Your servant has struck down both lions and bears and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them.” He continues, “For he [Goliath] has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord, Yahweh, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul responds to David, “Go and the Lord be with you.” The Hebrew word for paw and hand are the same word, so you can hear the punning going on. “The Lord has defended me from the hand of the lion, from the hand of the bear, and He will deliver me from the hand of this uncircumcised Philistine.” David, while he was a man of valor, while he was a strong fighter, understood that his greatest strength lay in the Lord. That is the source of David’s power, because he believes in God and understands that the battle that he will fight belongs to the Lord. Saul says, “Well, okay, here, take my armor.” And David very diplomatically says, “No, I’m not really used to this stuff. It’s okay.” Again, there is a much more significant, much more theological reason why David did not want Saul’s armor and we will see it in a few verses.

David Confronts Goliath

David goes out to fight Goliath. Starting at verse 40, David prepares for battle: “Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch." It is a shepherd’s staff, not a warrior’s staff, not a javelin, and not a spear. His sling was in his hand and he approached the Philistine. Using slings in war was quite common. They are leather patches held together with two strings coming out either side about three feet long. Manufactured stones were made about two to three inches across. They are not little pebbles that David is picking up, they are pretty good sized chunks of rock. By the way, if you go today to the Valley of Elah as many tourists do, you will be overjoyed to find smooth stones all the way through the place. You can take your trophies home and enjoy them, “Just like David had!” But, actually, once a week the department of tourism in Israel backs up a dump truck and dumps in smooth stones. It is still kind of cool to have five smooth stones, though! Anyway, David is now prepared for battle. He has a weapon of war, a very effective one once you are good at it. In verse 41, we read about Goliath’s challenge. “And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David with his shield bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him." David advancing was disgusting to Goliath. “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 [(in reference to his shepherd’s staff)]?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” The chief Philistine god was Dagon, which will come up in a second. “And 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.” This was a rather common curse and is found in non-biblical literature, as well. There is one piece of information that I have not yet covered and Goliath may have forgotten. It is back in I Samuel Chapter 5 where the Israelites did some silly things and the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines and it was taken into the temple of Dagon. Again, another common practice. You would conquer your enemy, take their god, and stick it in your god’s temple. It was a way of saying that the god of the victors is more powerful than that of the losers.

So they put the Ark of the Covenant, which they had captured, into Dagon’s temple. When they woke up the next morning Dagon was flat in his face in a position of worship before the Ark. So, they put the Dagon statue back up. They came in the following morning and not only is he over on his face again, but his head has been cut off. This is just a bit of irony that is going to come true in just a few minutes. Goliath has uttered his challenge and then David returns with his challenge of faith. These are words of faith just like Hannah’s song was a cry of faith. “Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand and I will strike you down and cut off your head.” I can imagine Goliath saying, “With what?! A stick? Your big scary sling?” David continues, “I will give the dead bodies of the hosts of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth that all the earth may know that there is a God in heaven and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves, not with sword and spear, for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” David is just sitting there and throwing Goliath’s words back in his face. Did you hear that? It is almost everything Goliath has said, but David has twisted and has thrown it right back in his face. Again, in Hebrew, there are certain personal pronouns that are very emphatic. If you heared this in Hebrew, you would hear David taunting Goliath by throwing his words back at him. Up in verse 33 he says, “Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?” There are your pronouns. David says, “You come to me with a sword and a spear and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord.” He is throwing everything he can back at Goliath and Goliath is getting angry.

Again, notice the literary contrast that is going all the way through this passage. Here is a huge giant with massive armor facing a shepherd boy with a sling and a stick. This is why the author describes Goliath’s armor and size in such detail in the first part of Chapter 17. He wants to establish the contrast, which is why David would not take Saul’s armor. Additionally, he did not want there to be any question about the fact that the victory belongs to God and not to David with a lucky shot. They start to fight in verse 48. “When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly.” I love that; that is underlined in my Bible. David is at a dead sprint. He cannot wait to see God deliver Goliath into his hands. “He ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his pocket.” I do not know if he is running this whole time, but I like to envision that he is. “And he took out one of the stones and he swung it and he struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead and Goliath fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.” There is the point. The battle was the Lord’s. David did not need armor. All he needed and all that he had was the Lord. “Then David ran,” (he is still sprinting), “and stood over the Philistine and took Goliath’s sword and drew it out of it’s sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it.” Now there are several ways to put these verses together and it’s possible that the stone killed him and David made that very apparent by decapitating him and also it’s possible that the stone knocked him unconscious and then David cut off his head to make sure that he stayed down. But either way, either way, what’s going on, you all? That will do it. In some of the classic art it’s drawn, it is very graphic because it’s like a preadolescent boy holding a head that goes from here to here, all hairy. It’s an amazing picture of the contrast, but I’m not going to put it on the screen. As Dagon fell and was beheaded, so also he who cursed with his name fell and was beheaded. In both stories it is God who won the battle. The Philistines were beaten, the Israelites chased them for about ten miles, came back, plundered their camp and then, as an interesting postscript, we read about what David’s spoil from the victory was.

Look down at verse 54 please: “And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, 17 miles away. But he put his [(meaning Goliath’s)] armor in his [(probably Goliath’s)] tent.” Eliab and the older brothers were soldiers and would have had their own tents. David just came down to check out what was happening, so he probably did not have his own. So David’s spoil is Goliath’s tent, sword and armor. Then he carries this dead guy’s head around with him. In fact, Saul’s still up there scratching his head trying to figure out who this guy is. I mean, you can imagine the kind of concern. “This is the guy who keeps playing music for me when I don’t feel very good. He’s out there killing Goliath. Whose son is this guy anyway?” They do not know, so Abner brings him up. Look at verse 57. Abner brings him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. David is not letting go of this head, and he is dragging it everywhere he goes. I did not write the story, you all; that is what it says. I Samuel 17 is not primarily the story of the victory of a young man. David and Goliath are not the main actors in this story. The main actor is God who fights the battle and gives the victory. I Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath is really the story of the Lord who defeats his enemies through a young man. It is the story of God working through someone who unequivocally trusts Him, the God of Israel. That is what the story in I Samuel 17 is really all about.

The Lesson of Goliath: Step out in Faith

There are many lessons that we could draw from the story of the Lord’s victory through David, but certainly the greatest is simply a challenge that it gives to you and me. It is a challenge that just as David stepped out in faith, so also you and I are called to step out in faith. David could have stayed in the back. He could have stayed back with the baggage handlers, which is where his older brother thought he belonged. He could have stayed out of the battle; he was not one of the soldiers. He could have chosen to do the safe thing. He could have chosen to stay within his comfort zone. In fact, he even could have couched it in religious language. He could have looked at Goliath and said, “Ooooh, I should not test the Lord my God. And after all, I’m supposed to honor my father and mother. And you know the sheep thing-they’re a problem. They’re probably biting each other, I need to get back.” He could have done that. And he could have sounded very religious and very safe in the process. But David was not a safe man. He was a man of faith. He was, in fact, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). That verse means that David sees life through the eyes of faith. Although Hebrews 11:6 had yet to be written, David is the living example that it is impossible to please God without faith. David understood that God had committed Himself to His people. David believed; he knew that God would be faithful to His word and would be victorious. He did not want to sit in the back seat, to be in the back row, he wanted to be part of the victory. He did not want to sit on the sidelines, but he wanted to be in the midst of the battle because he knew through faith that God would keep His word. He wanted to experience and be part of the battle, knowing all along that the battle belonged to the Lord.

David believed God and that is why he was a man after God’s own heart. David also understood that true faith always drives a person to act. ''Always''. You see, faith that lies dormant, faith that does not extend itself is not faith. In James 2:26 we read that faith without works is dead. Faith that is lifeless is no faith at all. Faith by its very definition propels us from the sidelines into the midst of battle. Sometimes when we are called to step out in faith, we are still within our comfort zone. When the Lord, when the Holy Spirit speaks He rarely shouts, He normally whispers, but it is very clear if you are listening, right? We know what the Lord wants us to do many times. Sometimes we may feel a little uneasy or a little queasy. “Talk to that man on the other side of the airplane aisle, Bill.” “You mean I have to extend myself?” “Bill, you’re never going to see him again, it doesn’t matter what he thinks of you.” Sometimes it is a little uneasy, but we are still within our comfort zone. Maybe it is just a lion and a bear, as in David’s case. It is okay. The Lord can handle this through me. But there are certainly other times when God calls us not only to step out in faith, but He calls us to go out, way out, on the end of the limb, doesn’t He? And our human, our sinful side, will tend to respond like the armies of Israel. We will tend to respond in fear, but faith always will see life through God’s eyes. Whether you or I are inside or outside of our comfort zone, faith says to step out in faith, to step up to the plate. It is necessary to go out on the limb, because the battle belongs to the Lord. It is when I am weak that He is strong.

I was on a plane once and had three seats all to myself on an exit row. I had work to do and was sitting by the window, just loving life. But there was a man on the other side of the aisle that kept wanting to talk to me. I was thinking, “Will you please shut up?!” I did not say it to him, but I was looking forward to three hours of peace and quiet. This guy would not stop talking to me. The thought crossed my mind, “Bill, maybe I want you to talk to him.” “Oh, all right God. I’ll stop programming, turn the computer off.” Well, it turns out the man’s name was Mike Constance. I do not know his exact title, but he is at a vice president level of Campus Crusade for Christ. We had a marvelous time talking, especially because I was beginning my website project on Biblical Training and was looking for ways to get seminary level classes out to people. Crusade would be a good way of getting seminary lectures out to people. In the course of the discussion I said, “Tell me what is the one most amazing thing about Bill Bright.” And Mike said instantly, “The most amazing thing about Bill Bright is that he can believe anything. Anything. And many years ago, the Holy Spirit whispered to Bill Bright, "You have a Goliath.” I think it was UCLA, or was it USC? I get my story mixed up. I think it was UCLA. And he said, “I want you, Bill Bright, to reach out to all the students at UCLA.” Dr. Bright believed God. Because of that, Campus Crusade for Christ is now God’s vehicle for attacking the enemy around the world. It started because one man believed God and did not think that the Goliath was too big. He stepped out in faith and God won the battle. Hudson Taylor is another great example of this. Hudson Taylor founded the Inland China Mission. Conventional wisdom at that time was that you go to the large cities on the perimeter of China or you do not go into China at all. But God told Hudson Taylor, “Go inland. Start the mission.” I would like to read to you just two paragraphs about this scene of Hudson Taylor having to leave his mom at the shores at Liverpool when he took off to go to the Inland China Mission. “My beloved, now sainted, mother had come to see me off from Liverpool. Never shall I forget that day. She sat by my side and joined me in the last hymn that we would sing together before the long parting. We knelt down and she prayed the last mother’s prayer I was to hear before starting for China. The notice was given that we must separate and we had to say good-bye, never expecting to meet on earth again. For my sake she restrained her feelings as much as possible. We parted and she went on shore, giving me her blessing. I sit alone on deck and she followed the ship as it moved toward the dock gates. As we passed through the gates and the separation really commenced, I shall never forget the cry of anguish wrung from my mother’s heart. It went through me like a knife. I never knew so fully until then what “God so loved the world” meant. And I am quite sure that my precious mother learned more of the love of God to the perishing in that hour than in all her life before. Praise God the number is increasing who are finding out the exceeding joys, the wondrous revelations of His mercy promised to those who follow Him and emptying themselves, leave all in obedience to His great commission.” When China opened back up, estimates are that the Chinese church is about 70 million strong. Hudson Taylor was the only missionary that listened to God and went inland. He was the one who started it and went to inland China. A few other people followed. As we step out in faith, sometimes we will be within our comfort zone; sometimes we will not be within our comfort zone. Especially as God calls us outside our comfort zone, when He calls us to truly exercise our faith in Him, we will start seeing Goliaths fall. We are gong to see what appears to be an unconquerable obstacle fall. Our faith is going to grow as individuals and as a church, and we are going to be able to believe greater and greater things. I want to ask David when I meet him, “Were you scared before the lion and the bear, because I do not think you were scared before Goliath.” I would not be surprised to hear David say, “Yeah, I was a little nervous the first time. I was a little nervous to see a lion and a bear, knowing that I had to kill them. But I extended myself in faith. I believed in God and by the time I got to Goliath, he was nothing but an uncircumcised Philistine and I could not wait to carry around his decapitated head in victory.” I suspect that is what I am going to hear. What are the Goliaths in your life? What are the apparently unconquerable challenges that you are facing? Maybe it is loving your neighbor. You can know that you are empowered by God to share your faith with your neighbor just as much as David was empowered to defeat Goliath. All authority has been given to our Lord and he has given us permission. We do not need our neighbor’s permission. We have been told to make disciples, to evangelize, to disciple them, to mentor them so that they will do all that Jesus has commanded. There is no question as to what we are told to do. The only question is: Do we believe God and will that faith make us step up to the plate? And, will that faith enable us to step out and watch God drive the rock home? That is the challenge of I Samuel 17. There are other challenges in your life, but I do not know them. Regardless, I encourage you to step up to the plate and step out in faith. The further you go outside your comfort zone, the more you get to see God win His battles.

Let’s pray. Father, I do not know if You will call any of us to exercise the kind of faith that Hudson Taylor or Bill Bright were called to. I do not know what you have planned for me, for the people in my family, or for my neighborhood. But I do know one thing, God, that You have called me to be faithful. You have called me to believe that You are who You say You are and that You will do what You say You will do. You have promised that the battle is Yours. I do not have to kill Goliath with my sword, I just have to throw the rock and watch You take care of it. Father, may we be known throughout our communities as people who not only love God, but trust Him with all their heart, and all their soul and all their might. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Reflection Questions

  • It’s really hard to not look on the outside, isn’t it? It is hard to remember that what the Lord values is what is inside, issues of character and faith and not what the world values. Have you discovered any habits that help you not draw quick judgments based on externals?
  • Is the fearful response of the Israelite armies that surprising? Even though they had experienced God’s power in the past, their fear overcame them in the present. Has that ever happened to you? Why do you think you weren’t able to draw strength from God’s past faithfulness?
  • What would it take for you to learn to respond in faith like David? What would it take for you to be the kind of person who does not react in fear?
  • How will you retell the story of David and Goliath and move the attention properly to the main player of the drama, to God?
  • Have you ever played it safe and later realized that you lost a great opportunity to respond in faith? How do you feel about it now?
  • What are some ways in which God is calling you to step out in faith, but still inside your comfort zone?
  • Is God calling you to step out of your comfort zone? How?
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