I. Samuel 17
Every segment of society has its own “catch phrases” that only the initiated understand. Football has it’s 4th and long” mutual funds brokers talk about a front-end load.” pharmacists talk about “generic” and “non generic” drugs, and on and on. And the same thing is true in the Christian life. We have our own “catch phrases” that only the (supposedly) “real” Christians understand, such as “eternal security,” “free will,” “predestination,” and so forth. And one of the most popular of those is “a man” (or “woman”) after God’s own heart. But what does it mean to be “a man or woman after God’s own heart?” Well, the passage before us demonstrates that as clearly as any other place in scripture. Because as we look at this well-known story we are going to see that the dominant characteristic of David’s was that he put the honor and glory of God ahead of every other motivation in his life.
Not that he was sinless; far from it. But that his normal operating mode was to try to look at things from God’s point of view. And when he did fall into sin, he was quick to agree with God about it (even though in some instances it took awhile to even come to grips with the sin.)
The chapter falls into 4 parts:
- The Challenge – verses -11
- The Champion – verses 12-38
III. The Conflict – verses – 39-51
- The Conclusion – verses 52-58
So let’s begin our study of this well known story by looking at the challenge that was issued in verses 1 through 11
First notice the giver of the challenge in verses 4 through 7 :
Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle, and were gathered together at Sochoh, which belongs to Judah; they encamped between Sochoh and Azekah in Ephes Dammin(2) And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the valley of Elah,and drew up in battle array against the Philistines. (3) The Philistines stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.
The Philistines had probably heard about Saul’s depression and decided it was a good time to act. Satan and his people are on the alert for such situations, especially when they know a problem is spiritually based, as Saul’s depression was. This is the kind of thing Peter had in mind when he wrote that “Satan goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” in I Peter 5:8. Having seen the circumstances of the challenge, then, in verses 4 through 11 we find the contents of the challenge First notice the giver of the challenge in verses 4 through 7
And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span (5) He had a bronze helmet on his head and he was armed with a coat of mail and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. (6) And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders (7) Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed 600 shekels and a shield bearer went before him.
Verse 4 brings out something that may seem completely insignificant, but actually is very important. Notice that it says that Goliath was from Gath. In Numbers chapter 13 we read that the spies who went in to look over the promised land came back with a report of “giants in the land,” which caused that generation of Israelites to refuse to go into the promised land. Then in Joshua 1`1:21,22, when the next generation did go into the land, we read that Joshua drove out all the giants “except in Gaza and Gath and in Ashdod. So when we read just in passing here in I Samuel 17 that Goliath was a giant from Gath it demonstrates again the intricate accuracy of the Bible. And it also emphasizes the far-ranging dangers of incomplete obedience. You have no idea what your disobedience today may cause far down the road. (Joshua had lived 400 years earlier)
So that is the giver of the challenge . Then in verses 8-10 we find the giving of the challenge.
Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel. “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine? And you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. (9) If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants, But if I prevail against him, then then you shall be our servants and serve us.” (10) And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day, give me a man, that we may fight together.”
This “crying out” of taunts and threats to the armies of Israel is reminiscent of Satan “going about as a roaring lion in I Peter 5:8. And like Satan, some of what he said was true: they were “servants of Saul” (and back in chapter 8 God had warned them that that was exactly what would happen.
Now we have seen the circumstances of the challenge and the call for contact that Goliath gave. Now in verse 11 we see the concern that Israel had about the challenge.
When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
This is a sad contrast to the boldness of Saul in chapters 11 and 14, where he had had great victories when the spirit of the Lord was upon him.” And “the fear of all Israel” here nothing like “the fear of the Lord” that fell on all the people at the beginning of Saul’s reign in chapter 11. And verse 16 is going to say that this kept up for forty days, which underscores the situation. Throughout the scripture the number 40 is associated with testing and probation and the demonstration of weakness (for example, the wilderness wanderings, the flood, etc.) So, for forty days God was demonstrating that Israel was impotent because of their lack of fellowship with Him.
Think about the irony here. They had Saul, who was from his shoulders and upwards” taller than any o f the people” according to chapter 9 verse 2. And Jonathon, who had killed 20 Philistines with only the help of his armor bearer a couple of chapters back. There was Abner, the commander of the army, who was “a valiant man, according to chapter 14:50,52 and 26:15. But none of them were willing to accept the challenge from goliath. This 40 days of testing demonstrated that without God’s leadership, the boldest of men are helpless. And it prefigures something that John 15:5 tells us very clearly: “without me, you can do nothing.” So Israel was in a truly helpless state. But David never forgot his father and the sheep. And when the need arose to go and see about them he didn’t hesitate to go – and leave the “planning” to God. And that’s where he was when this part of the story developed. But even in this there is a lesson: Before God ever uses a man publicly and spectacularly, He prepares him privately. And usually that is done “in the background” without notice and fame (but not without useful service in the process.) And the man of God doesn’t chafe under that and keep trying to move himself up; he rests in God’s will for his life. In fact, he is content to serve where the Lord puts him even if he never moves up! (are you?) On any level, effective public ministry only comes out of the right kind of relationship with God in private.
Then out of that background, in verse 16 through 22 we see the assignment he was given, and verses 17 and 18 are typical of this section:
Then Jesse said to his son David, “take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these 10 loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. (18)And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.”
This section is another of those pictures of Jesus going about His Father’s business, taking care of His brethren. But something else to notice here is how god is working all of these things together for good. Verses 12 and 13 say that Jesse had eight sons, but only three of them were in the army. But of the remaining five he chose the youngest one to go see about the others – and that made sense; he probably had fewer obligations than the others. But actually it was all a part of God’s plan for David – and for Israel. In verse 22 David arrives in the camp just in time to see what was going on. So in verses 23 through 28 we have his assessment of the problem. Most of those verses are a review of what we have already seen in this chapter, so we won’t go over them in detail. But the conclusion that David comes to is in the last half of verse 26. And it is quite different from the assessment of the army.
Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
The army saw it as a threat to them and their safety, but David saw it for what it w as: defiance of the living God. When he hears this, David’s older brother Eliab gets angry in verse 28. And even in that there is a spiritual picture:
Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”
Eliab is like many Christians out of fellowship – they misjudge the motives of those who are in fellowship. Even Jesus had this problem – John 1:11 says that “he came unto his own and his own did not receive Him.” David’s assessment of the situation led, then, to his approach to the solution in verses 29 through 38. First we see his attitude in verse 29
And David said, “What have I done now? “Is there not a cause?
Here was the basic problem in Israel: they had forgotten the cause for which they should fight!
The very glory of the God of Israel was being sullied and tarnished; that had to be corrected! And David was willing to do something about it, no matter what the cost. And this is the secret of being “a man after God’s own heart.” David shared his attitude with anyone who would listen. And that soon led to his appearance before Saul in verses 32 and 33:
Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight this Philistine.”
But his offer is only met with the objection that we find in verse 33:
(33) And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth, and a man of war from his youth.”
What Saul says here makes sense. But it was all from a human viewpoint – remember the Spirit of the Lord was upon David. But David’s spiritual viewpoint is demonstrated in the opinion that he gives in verses 34 through 37 (summarized in verse 37)
Moreover, David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said, ‘go, and the Lord be with you.”
David relates his human achievements in killing a lion and a bear in the process of recuing a lost sheep in verses 34 and 35, but he knew it was the Lord who made it possible. And he knows that that same Lord can rescue him from Goliath just as well.
So with all that as a background, the actual conflict takes place in verses 38 through 58: His armament is described in verses 38 through 40
So Saul clothed with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. (39)David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them “So David took them off. (40) Then he took his staff in his hand and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, a pouch which he had; and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.
Here again we see the human viewpoint of Saul. He had just gotten through saying.
the Lord be with you, but he immediately begins to outfit David with his armor. But David “puts it off,” in verse 39 and goes back to his simple shepherd’s equipment. In verse 40. Does that mean that there is something wrong with using equipment or tools or material things in God’s service?
No! David used equipment, but it was the equipment of God’s choosing.
After making the right kind of preparation, in verses 41 through 47, David makes his approach to Goliath.
So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David and the man who bore the shield went before him (42) And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him for he was only a youth, ruddy and good looking, (43) So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?”And the Philistine cursed him with David by his gods (44) And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, you come to me with a spear and a sword 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. (46) This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you.
Finally, in verses 48 through 58 we have the actual fight between David and Goliath. And again it is such a familiar strory that it doesn’t need repeating. David was victorious by God’s power. And the defeat was so overwhelming that the Israelites plundered the camp of the Philistines.
In conclusion, this story is so famous and familiar that it is easy to overlook it. But always remember a couple of underlying truths: First, God will not long allow his glory to be diminished – even though He is “longsuffering” and “not willing that any should perish,” He also always brings punishment. And in accomplishing whatever purpose He has He uses those whom He has prepared – and who have responded to His preparation