David and Goliath
J. R. Miller, 1909
1 Samuel 17
The story of David and Goliath is one with which every reader of the Bible is familiar. It is full of interest. It reveals much of David's character, and throws light on the training of the boy in his shepherd life. It is suggestive also for all of us, for we all have giants to fight, and we may learn from David, how to meet them and conquer them.
David had been chosen to be king. Now he was to be trained for the great task. All the incidents and events in his life—were lessons set by the great Teacher. The Philistines had gathered for battle with the Israelites, and Saul and his men were facing them. One day there stalked out from the Philistine lines—a great giant, named Goliath, and proposed that one from Saul's army should come out and fight him, and that the outcome of this duel should settle the conflict between the two armies. At first no one of Saul's men responded to the champion's defiance. The king and his men were dismayed and greatly humiliated.
Then David came to the camp. He did not belong to the army. He was only a boy, and his place was at home with the sheep. His older brothers were with Saul.
Jesse one day sent David to the camp with provisions for his brothers. For forty days, morning and evening, Goliath had been coming out and calling across the valley, demanding that someone from the Israelite army should accept his challenge. David had just found his brothers and was talking with them—when the giant made his appearance. The shepherd lad heard his haughty words. He learned also what had been promised by the king—to the man who would kill the evil champion. David became greatly interested in the matter—but the boy's inquiries irritated Eliab, David's oldest brother, who spoke scornfully to him.
The king heard of the lad's interest and sent for him. David proposed to the king—that he would fight the giant. Saul tried to dissuade him—but David persisted, and at length Saul consented. "Go, and the Lord shall be with you." "Then Saul put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head." David's simple shepherd's garb did not appear to the warrior king to be suited for the battle with the great giant—who was outfitted in all the armor of a man of war. Saul thought David could not fight a soldier, without a soldier's armor. He did not know that he was better armed as he was than if he had helmet and coat of armor and shoes of brass to protect his body. David was clad rather in the panoply of God.
The best protection anyone can have in time of danger—is the garment of truth, sincerity and holiness. Paul tells us of the Christian's armor, which, he says, every follower of Christ should wear, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Life is a constant warfare—if it is life really worth living. Not to fight—is not to try to get forward and struggle upward.
The king thought David should be armed before going out to meet Goliath, so he put on him his own helmet and coat of armor. But David told Saul he could not fight in armor. "I cannot go with these; because I am not used to them! So he took them off." He tried to move about in Saul's heavy armor—but staggered under the weight. In a contest of pure arms—sword and spear and helmet and coat of armor—David would have been no match for Goliath; but armed with his sling—the giant was no match for him. This was the one weapon which David had been trained to use to perfection.
Just so, stick to your little sling when you are fighting giants, and do not attempt to throw anything but choice stones out of the gospel brook. Too many of our modern Davids persist in fighting Goliaths in Saul's armor, and it is no wonder they are defeated. One who knows how to use the Word of God—is more than a match for any giant in the world. That was the weapon Jesus used when He met the great Goliath, Satan, and utterly vanquished him!
"Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine." We should remember that David's fine throwing that day was not accidental, nor was it by a miracle—that the stone went so straight to its mark. David had learned in his shepherd life—to do this thing easily and surely. He had practiced with his sling until he could strike a hair's breadth and never miss. He had spent his leisure to some purpose while watching the sheep. He did not know then what splendid use his skill would one day be to him—but unconsciously, in his pleasant pastime, he was preparing for the great crisis of that day. Wellington used to say he learned on the Eton playground, how to fight the battle of Waterloo.
This teaches young people the importance of improving every moment, and taking every opportunity to acquire knowledge and skill. Someone may say to them, that they will never find any use for this or that branch of study in the curriculum, and might as well omit it—but this is bad advice. Some day they will need all the knowledge and skill they can acquire. They will find need, too, for the particular bits of learning and knowledge they think they will never have occasion to use. David could not have met Goliath victoriously in that momentous hour—if he had not unconsciously prepared for such a conflict in the quiet hours of his shepherd life.
Many a man fails in important moments in the critical experiences of life—because he has failed to be diligent in his boyhood. If you would be ready for such occasions in your life—you must prepare for them in the quiet days of boyhood and youth. If David had not been an expert slinger before that morning—he could not then, in the hour before the giant came out, have prepared himself for the battle, nor could he have brought down the champion by any mere lucky stroke. Learn all you can in youth, omit no opportunity for acquiring skill in doing things, become skillful in whatever you do. You do not know what good service your experience, even in little, mundane things—may some day do you!
We should not neglect spiritual training. When Jesus met the tempter, He fell back on the preparation He had made in His silent years at Nazareth. To each assault He replied with a verse of Scripture. But He did not go to His Bible scroll to get His text. He had the Words of God in His heart, hidden away in the storehouse of memory.
Some people have to take their concordance and look up the Scripture text they want, when any need demands it, either for their own use or in helping others. A concordance is a good thing to have—but it is better if we become so familiar with our Bible and have it so in memory, that we can quote its words. It may seem to us that we do not need the Divine promises now—but some time we shall, and if we fail to learn them—we shall not have them ready in the day of distress.
When the Philistine "looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him." He saw only a boy, unarmed, and scorned to fight with him. So the world disdains the Christian. It asks with contempt: "What can he do? What strength has he in his feeble hands? Where are the weapons he is going to fight with?" The giant saw only a shepherd's staff in David's hands; what was that—against his own enormous spear? The world sees only a Bible in the Christian's hand; what is that—against all its philosophy and science and reason? Yet the Christian is not so defenseless and powerless as he seems. His weapons are not of the earthly kind and do not appear formidable—but are really powerful, and, like David, he is able with them to subdue giants!
David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty!" The giant blustered, boasting of his own power and disdaining David's littleness. He was angry that he had to fight with a mere boy. "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" Yet David was not scared by Goliath's pitiful scorn of him. It was the Lord's battle he was about to fight, and he knew the Lord would give victory.
The law of the heavenly kingdom is, "Not by might, nor by power—but by My Spirit, says the Lord." There are a great many things that human power can do—but when we turn to the really essential things in life—it is strengthless, and can do none of them. With all its boasted philosophy, science and wisdom—it cannot convert souls nor change hearts; it cannot lift up the fallen; it cannot overcome sin and Satan; it cannot comfort sorrow nor give peace to the dying. Not one of the really great things of life, can it do. The Christian comes in the name of the Lord, and that name has in it—the strength of omnipotence! Jesus said: "I have overcome the world." He is Master of all things, and therefore is able to subdue all things unto Himself.
David talked very confidently to the Philistine—but not boastfully. He gave God all the honor of the victory he was about to win. "I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty!" "This day will the Lord deliver you into my hand." "That all the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands." We can conquer—only as we fight in the name of Christ.
"As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. Reaching into his shepherd's bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it from his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face downward to the ground!" Just so, the believer in God may prevail over every Philistine that stalks out to meet him—if he goes against him as David went that day against Goliath. The battle that wins the victory is the Lord's. If we go in His name—we shall conquer. Paul said: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
There are giants in our own hearts, even after the most thorough conversion. Like the Philistines in Canaan, the Philistines of sin also are terribly hard to subjugate. Your besetting sin, whatever it is, is a Goliath. It may seem to you that it never can be vanquished, and it never can until David comes—our David—Jesus. Call for Him to come and slay the giant for you!
There are giants in the world outside. Intemperance is one. Unbelief is another. Worldliness is another. These giants stalk out and hurl their defiance at the army of God's people—and there seems to be no one who can overcome them. Now is the time for faith in God. We must go out against these giants in the name of the Lord, not with philosophy, science and education—but with the Cross, and then we shall prevail.
"And since he had no sword, he ran over and pulled Goliath's sword from its sheath. David used it to kill the giant and cut off his head!" We should not fail to get a lesson on the importance of thoroughness in the conquest of evil, from David's manner of dealing with Goliath. David was not satisfied with seeing the giant fall to the earth when the smooth stone struck him—but ran and drew Goliath's own sword from its scabbard—and with it cut off his head. If he had not done this—the old champion would probably have gotten up by-and-by, and walked away, for he was only stunned—not killed, by the stone. David made sure that his work was completed.
A great many of our attacks upon sin in our own hearts, and in the world—only stun and temporarily disable—but do not kill the evil. We walk away, thinking we have done a fine thing, won a splendid victory; and presently we meet the old giant again, stalking abroad as before! He soon recovers from our blow, and we have to fight the battle over again, and perhaps we fight it again in the same half way, and thus on and on—to the end of life.
Most of us have had just such experiences as these with our own lusts and passions. We overcome them often, and each time we think that we have entirely subdued them and that we shall have no further trouble with them; but they are soon active as ever again! We need to learn from David—to finish our victories by cutting off the head of every giant we strike down! There is no other way of destroying our sins. The life is in the head—and the head must come off—or the enemy will be facing us again in a day or two with only a scar on his forehead!
The only way to get a real victory over vices—is to decapitate them! Bruises and wounds are not enough. There must be thorough work done, in the name of the Lord. Half-way measures will not avail.
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5