4 A champion named Goliath from Gath came out from the Philistine camp. He was more than nine feet tall. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore bronze scale-armor weighing one hundred twenty-five pounds. 6 He had bronze plates on his shins, and a bronze scimitar hung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was as strong as the bar on a weaver’s loom, and its iron head weighed fifteen pounds. His shield-bearer walked in front of him.
8 He stopped and shouted to the Israelite troops, “Why have you come and taken up battle formations? I am the Philistine champion, and you are Saul’s servants. Isn’t that right? Select one of your men, and let him come down against me. 9 If he is able to fight me and kill me, then we will become your slaves, but if I overcome him and kill him, then you will become our slaves and you will serve us. 10 I insult Israel’s troops today!” The Philistine continued, “Give me an opponent, and we’ll fight!” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard what the Philistine said, they were distressed and terrified.
32 “Don’t let anyone lose courage because of this Philistine!” David told Saul. “I, your servant, will go out and fight him!”
33 “You can’t go out and fight this Philistine,” Saul answered David. “You are still a boy. But he’s been a warrior since he was a boy!”
34 “Your servant has kept his father’s sheep,” David replied to Saul, “and if ever a lion or a bear came and carried off one of the flock, 35 I would go after it, strike it, and rescue the animal from its mouth. If it turned on me, I would grab it at its jaw, strike it, and kill it. 36 Your servant has fought both lions and bears. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them because he has insulted the army of the living God.
37 “The Lord,” David added, “who rescued me from the power of both lions and bears, will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.”
“Go!” Saul replied to David. “And may the Lord be with you!”
41 The Philistine got closer and closer to David, and his shield-bearer was in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked David over, he sneered at David because he was just a boy; reddish brown and good-looking.
43 The Philistine asked David, “Am I some sort of dog that you come at me with sticks?” And he cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said to David, “and I’ll feed your flesh to the wild birds and the wild animals!”
45 But David told the Philistine, “You are coming against me with sword, spear, and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel’s army, the one you’ve insulted.”
This is the first story about Israel’s King David most children learn in Sunday School. Even in sports or business, we often talk about a “David and Goliath” story when a “little guy” takes on an established power. The Philistine giant, whatever his exact size (ancient manuscripts differ), was big enough to terrify King Saul and the whole Israelite army. But he didn’t scare David. For him, the size of the God he served mattered much more than the size of his enemy. (And, of course, the story goes on in verse 46 ff. to say the giant lost—badly.)
Lord God, giants don’t always have to be nine feet tall to feel that way to me. Teach me that you are bigger than any human “giant,” and help me “cut them down to size” by trusting in you. Amen.
Every time I hear the David and Goliath story referenced, it’s like it’s teaching the same thing as the Moses and the burning bush story. In the latter, Moses is in hiding when God speaks to him, and is initially very apprehensive about helping. It takes a while for Moses to make that decision; and even once he does, he’s filled with fear and doubt as to how successful he will be. The message is that we should have the courage and faith to take on big things even when the odds are stacked against us, even when we feel woefully unprepared to do so.
When I hear mention of David and Goliath, I usually hear the same message. Even when the odds seem insurmountable--when it’s a giant in front of us, taunting us and challenging our ideals--we need to have the courage to stand up to it.
But if you look at David’s story in 1 Samuel 17, it’s actually quite different. The problem of Goliath and the Philistine army has everyone spooked--except David. David is the only person in the story who’s actually willing to tackle this very big problem. And it’s not a brash bravado or blind reliance on supernatural feats; David had been training his entire life for this. He had fought bears and lions, and had no problem attacking them directly. The problem isn’t that David was afraid or unprepared to tackle this literal giant--the problem is that everyone else was afraid and unprepared to trust someone who doesn’t have the right credentials.
The difference is very significant. We already have the Moses and the burning bush story to tell us to be courageous in the face of danger. David’s story teaches us to be courageous in the face of our peers and fellow Christians who doubt us. It also serves as a fair warning that there will be other Christians that doubt us, and we may have to overcome them to do what God prepared us to do.
For whatever reason, every movement has its well-meaning detractors. Your movement may even have detractors that you’ve looked up to. Maybe they’re saying you’re too young to lead them in worship, or too old to be relevant to a younger crowd; maybe they’re saying you’re too untrained to help out with a serious ministry; maybe they’re saying your political beliefs don’t align closely enough with Christianity. I’ve heard some variant of each of these, and I’ll admit that there are times these arguments have kept me from doing God’s work.
Always remember to trust in what God has been preparing you for throughout your life. There will come times when you face a challenge that seems uniquely fitted to your strengths. In those times, press on even if other Christians doubt you. David never would have faced Goliath had he not had more faith in God than in his king.
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