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. 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.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
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. Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.
Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”
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. Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 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. Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
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.”
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?”
They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”
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.”
“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 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.
Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”
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 God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and 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.”
As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.
When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
- 1 Samuel 17:8-51
In a recent sermon, our new pastor… Okay, he started quite some time ago, but with the COVID lockdown and the restrictions easing a little at a time, it seems that he is brand new. The pastor read the Scripture above and not all of it was in the bulletin, and the part that was there still took up the page. He then talked about how the story was familiar even in the details with most church goers.
Then he said something that nearly got my brain derailed. It was profound. More than a small boy fighting a giant, it was a clash between “two different understandings of reality.” He could have ended the sermon where he began without saying another word. What he continued with illustrated what he had said. And the conflict of the two different understandings had nothing to do with a Philistine giant. King Saul, the pretend king, as the pastor stated, as David had already been anointed to become king… Saul placed his body armor on David, and it was too big. For David to do what David knew how to do, David needed to be able to move.
But the ultimate clash was bordered on one side by Saul who had the worldly wisdom of being stronger than the enemy with greater numbers and then you might defeat the enemy with sound strategy and tactics. Winning against Goliath meant guarding oneself. Saul had no armory or blacksmith. He had probably bought the armor that he put on David from a Philistine merchant. (At this point in his sermon, I wanted to add that with King David having an ally in Uriah the Hittite, he would have, once he was king, an alliance with the Hittites, the masters of ironwork and steel making.)
The other side of the clash of understandings was David knowing that God would protect him. This was not a weak hope; it was REALITY. In the latter part of the previous chapter of 1 Samuel, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in a strong way, and the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, replaced by an evil spirit.
But what was profound to me was that this was a clash of two understandings of reality. It was not reality on one side (a giant leading a huge army) and faith (some mumbo jumbo that you pray about and then do a lot of hoping). No. It was a clash between different understandings of REALITY.
The larger Philistine army with a huge giant is something that everyone can see, but to the Christian, or to a boy who was filled with the Spirit of the Lord, faith that the Goliath in our lives has already been defeated is reality also.
Too often, we pray without believing that what we pray is even heard by God, and then God too often says “no,” so we rarely think that we have a ghost of a chance to have our petition granted before God.
But there was a reason for David’s prayer to be answered that day. He stated it to Goliath. Throughout the world they will know that there is a God in Israel. David had total confidence in God, because he gave God credit for the ultimate victory before he ever placed a rock in the sling.
Do we glorify God before we conquer our Goliath? Do we give God equal billing after we do so, a nod for the helper instead of the author of the victory? Not even that?
Do we now know why we pray without thinking that our prayers are being heard, much less answered?
Faith must become a reality, rather than hand-waving and hoping that God will grant a wish, as if He were a genie.
To pray with power, we must have the power. When we are truly saved, God enters our hearts. If we are praying within God’s will, it is already done. We just have not seen it happen yet.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.