WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT
THAT A SHEPHERD BOY
WOULD KILL A GIANT?
(1 Samuel 17:1-58)
The Israelite soldiers were awestruck. Never had they seen such a huge man. He was almost twice as tall as the tallest soldier in their army. His legs were as thick as tree trunks and his head was so big that it almost blotted out the sun! He was covered from head to foot with heavy bronze armour and carried a spear as tall as the tallest of them.
Saul and his army shivered and trembled as they nudged one another and pointed to the frightening figure standing at the top of the hill, arms folded, calling them to come and fight. "Look at that,¨ they said to one another in fear and admiration. "Have you ever seen anything like it? We will never be able to beat him. What are we going to do?¨ they wailed. Every time his voice boomed across the valley, they fled to their tents in fear.
"Come and fight me, you cowards,¨ taunted the giant. "I am the Philistine's champion. Choose your bravest soldier and come. I'm waiting for you,¨ he sneered. "If you kill me, the Philistines will be your slaves. If I kill your champion, we'll make you our slaves. Ha, ha,¨ he laughed, "you're all scared, that's the trouble. Come, I'm waiting.¨ He swaggered about on the hilltop, jeering at them and calling them to battle, but no-one dared step out against him.
Day after day for forty days, just after sunrise, the huge soldier appeared on the hillside, shouting for a champion and, day after day, the Israelite soldiers cowered in their tents. No one was brave enough to challenge him. Even their leader, King Saul, was too afraid to stand up against the taunts of the ungodly Philistine. Every day Saul walked up and down the ranks, urging his soldiers to take up the giant's challenge. "Eliab, son of Jesse,¨ he ordered, "prepare to be Israel's champion.¨ Eliab trembled with fear. "But, your majesty,¨ he protested, "I am no match for the giant.¨ Saul shrugged his shoulders and moved on. "Coward!¨ he muttered under his breath. "What about you, Benjamin, son of Elias? Will you fight the giant?¨ Benjamin shook his head. "Please excuse me, sir. I have a young family to take care of. I cannot fight the Philistine.¨
Saul sat in his tent, dejected, afraid and desperate for help. One by one the soldiers had made excuses for their fear. No one was willing to fight. "I can't fight the man,¨ Saul argued. "What if I am killed? The army will have no leader. What am I going to do?¨ he moaned. Just then he heard a noise in the camp. It was the sound of loud voices shouting and arguing from the tent of Jesse's sons.
"Who do you think you are, you young upstart?¨ shouted Eliab angrily. "Why don't you go back to your few sheep in the desert? Why have you come here? Do you think this is some show to watch? I know your wicked heart.¨ David turned away. "What have I done to you?¨ he asked. "I only came to bring you some provisions as my father instructed me. Now I hear that the Philistines have sent their champion to fight against the army of the God of Israel.¨ He turned and looked straight into Eliab's eyes. "What is wrong with you? Are you too scared to fight this uncircumcised Philistine?¨
David's appearance in the Israelite camp had caused a stir. He had heard the giant's challenge long before he saw him standing on the hillside beckoning the terrified Israelite soldiers to come and fight. "What's going on here?¨ he questioned. "Why are you all so afraid to fight this man?¨ The soldiers stared at him in amazement. Pointing across the valley at the strutting Philistine, they glared at David. "Look at him,¨ they protested. "Every day he comes out to defy Israel. He's so big. How can any one of us fight him?¨ Dropping their voices, they said, "The king has promised great wealth to the soldier who kills him, and even the hand of his daughter in marriage. He won't even have to pay taxes any more,¨ they said in a whisper. "What!¨ exclaimed David in amazement. "Did I hear you correctly? Say that again.¨ The soldiers repeated King Saul's offer.
"This is a disgrace!¨ declared David. "How can a heathen man like that challenge the armies of the living God?¨ The soldiers stared at David. "What does he mean?¨ they wondered in amazement. "Does he expect us to fight the giant?¨ One of them slipped out of the crowd and dashed off to the king. "Your majesty,¨ he panted, "Jesse's youngest son is here. You should hear what he is saying.¨ The king was sitting outside his tent, gazing across the valley at the rows and rows of Philistine soldiers waiting to engage the Israelite army in battle. He looked up, startled at the excited voice of the soldier. "Go on,¨ he encouraged, listening with interest to the soldier's story. "David said it's a disgrace that this heathen man is challenging the army of the living God,¨ reported the soldier. The king scratched his bear. "Bring him to me,¨ he commanded after a moment's silence.
David stood respectfully before the monarch. "Your majesty,¨ he said, "Don't be disheartened because of this ungodly man. Your servant will go and fight him for you.¨ Saul was aghast. "You can't do that,¨ he protested. "Youre only a boy and this man is an experienced fighter.¨ David looked into Saul's eyes. "Your majesty,¨ he said, "I'm not afraid of him. Your servant is a shepherd. I have killed a lion and a bear to protect my father's sheep and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them because he has defied the armies of the living God. My God will deliver him into my hand just as he delivered the lion and the bear into my hand.¨
Saul was full of admiration for the courageous youngster. "How I envy him,¨ he thought. "I don't have confidence in God like that any more.¨ Taking David's hand he said, "Go, my son, and may the Lord be with you.¨ David turned to leave, but Saul called him back. "You can't fight the giant unarmed. You must wear my armour.¨ Beckoning his armour bearer to bring his armour, he dressed David, piece by piece in the heavy metal covering.
David was a tall, well-built boy, but Saul's armour was much too big for him. "I can't wear these,¨ he said in dismay. "I can't even move in them,¨ he moaned, clanking around uncomfortably. He was glad to get them off so that he could walk about freely. "Don't worry about me. I'll be okay,¨ he called, picking up his shepherd's staff and heading off to the brook at the edge of the valley. Choosing five smooth round stones from the stream, he stowed them away in his shepherd's bag.
Saul watched the young man striding across the valley towards the Philistine camp. He turned to Abner, his general. "Who is that youngster?¨ he asked with interest. Abner looked puzzled. "I have no idea, sir,¨ he replied. "I have never seen him before.¨ Saul clutched Abner's arm. "Find out who he is,¨ he instructed. "He intrigues me. I could do with someone like that in my army.¨
The giant watched in amazement as a young unarmed boy, carrying only a sling in his right hand and a shepherd's staff in his left, walked slowly towards him. David stopped in the middle of the valley, hands on his hips and waited while the giant, armour bearer in front, approached him. "Who do you think I am?¨ roared Goliath in disgust. "Do you think I'm just a dog that you've come to fight me with a stick? Where's your armour and your sword?¨ He spat on the ground and swore in the name of his gods. "Come on, you young brat. Let me feed your flesh to the birds,¨ he yelled, swinging his sword high above his head and charging towards David.
David watched as the giant lumbered towards him. He noticed that his armour bearer, although he was an exceptionally tall soldier, was too short to protect Goliath's head. The giant was clumsy on his feet. His armour was heavy and he ran with difficulty. David sprinted towards him, swinging his sling above his head and shouting, "You come against me with a spear and a sword. My weapons are more powerful than yours. I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the army of Israel. Today the Lord will give you into my hand and I will cut off your head and feed you and your whole army to the birds. Everyone will know that God saves by His power, not by sword or spear.¨ With a flick of his fingers, he released a stone, yelling, "In the name of the God of Israel!¨
Before the astonished eyes of the watching armies, the giant dropped to the ground like a stone. The armour bearer fled as David stood over his fallen prize. Goliath lay on his face, his unseeing eyes staring into the dust. A trickle of blood dripped from his forehead where the smooth stone had embedded itself, making a red pool on the ground. He clutched his spear in his lifeless hand. David pulled the sword from the giant's scabbard and with one swift stroke, severed the huge head from the body. Holding it up high in triumph, he shouted with all his might, "In the name of the God of Israel, Goliath is dead.¨ A mighty roar of victory echoed around the valley as the Israelite army fell on the Philistines, pursuing them all the way back to their own cities and slaughtering the fleeing soldiers as they went.
What a mighty victory they won that day! The soldiers gathered up the spoils of the battle as they returned shouting, rejoicing and singing their victory songs. David picked up the giant's weapons, and carried his head in triumph from the battle field. Abner was waiting for him as he strode into the camp. "Young man,¨ he called, catching David's attention and beckoning him to follow. Still clutching the dripping head in his hand, David accompanied him to the king's tent. He found himself standing before the king once again. "Congratulations on your victory,¨ said King Saul warmly. "Young man, whose son are you?¨ David stood proud and erect. "I am the son of Jesse of Bethlehem, your servant,¨ he answered.
At last the ordeal was over. The soldiers settled down to sleep after a terrifying and exciting day. Saul sat outside his tent late into the night, sipping wine and thinking over the events of the day. Abner, his general, sat beside him. Now and again they exchanged comments and then slipped into silence, each lost in his thoughts. "Well, Abner,¨ said Saul at last, stretching and yawning, "it's time we went to bed.¨
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A life lesson for you
Why were King Saul and the Israelite soldiers so afraid of the giant, and David so full of courage? I think the answer is very simple. Saul and the soldiers saw only the giant. They forgot that they were soldiers in the army of the living God and that the giant was only a man. They forgot that God, the Almighty God, had promised to protect them and fight for them. They forgot that Goliath was a heathen man who worshipped idols. His god, whose name was Dagon, had no power to fight for him and to protect him.
David knew that God was on his side and that He was far more powerful than the giant, no matter how big he was and how much armour he wore and how many weapons he carried. The name of the living God is far greater than any man-made weapons. David didnˇ¦t depend on his skill with the sling. He trusted in the name of the God of Israel.
This is an important lesson for you to learn. If you have given your life to Jesus, He has promised to be your God, to protect and care for you, no matter what happens. Like David, you need never be afraid of anyone or anything that comes against you. The name of the Lord is much more powerful than any enemy you might have to fight. All you need to do is call on His name when you are in trouble and He will rescue you and help you. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 18:10, ˇ"The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.¨
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And now a prayer
Thank you, heavenly Father, that your name is powerful and that you have promised to protect me from all evil. Thank you that I can call on you at any time, that I can run into your name and I will be safe. Please help me to remember that, like David, I can fight the giants in my life, things like fear, anger, jealousy, and unforgiveness, through the power of your name. I pray this in Jesusˇ¦ name, amen.