David and Goliath
1 Samuel 16:1-18:16
Samuel was heartbroken about Saul. He loved Saul and wanted to see him succeed as king. His disobedience made that impossible. Finally God said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." So Samuel headed off toward Bethlehem, trusting God to protect him from Saul.
When Samuel arrived the elders of Bethlehem were worried. They had heard about the falling out between Saul and Samuel and wondered why Samuel was coming to them now. He assured them that he had come in peace and wanted to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. He invited them all, and Jesse and his sons in particular, to come to the feast. Samuel looked at the sons of Jesse, and the eldest, Eliab, impressed him. He was tall and strong, just like Saul. Surely he is God's choice. But the Lord said, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (16:7) The Lord likewise rejected the next six sons. Puzzled, Samuel asked Jesse if he had any sons who were not at the feast. Jesse said that his youngest was watching the sheep. Samuel said to go get him, because they wouldn't eat without him.
We're told that David "...ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome." I get the impression from other passages that David was a short man, not imposing physically like his brother Eliab. The Lord said he's the one! So Samuel took out his horn of oil and poured it over David's head. Anointing with oil was used to ordain the priests and to crown the kings. It is from the Hebrew word for anoint that we get the term Messiah, God's anointed one. The Greek word for anoint is the root for our word Christ. Like Saul, the Spirit of God came upon him as he was anointed. David is now the King of Israel! But as we'll see it will be a while before he rules the nation.
Yesterday we noted that Saul was tormented by a "harmful spirit" from the Lord. Most translations use the word "evil" to describe this spirit. That is the most literal interpretation, but the word can also mean hurtful. The Lord sent a spirit to torment Saul, driving him mad. His servants thought that music might soothe the king, so they looked and they found- guess who?- David. He played his harp for Saul and it eased his torment for a time.
The Philistines were causing trouble again. They were originally from the island of Crete and arrived in Canaan about the same time that Joshua began the conquest. They took up residence along the Mediterranean coast, and were a constant thorn in Israel's side. Saul mustered the army and went out to face them. David's older brothers were drafted, but he stayed behind to watch the sheep. Worried for his sons, Jesse sent David to check on them.
When he arrived, he heard a great booming voice coming from the Philistine camp. He looked and saw a giant named Goliath. Six cubits and a span translates to nine feet four inches! His armor weighed 120 pounds. His spear was huge. This giant was issuing a challenge. "Send someone to fight me! If your champion defeats me, we'll be your slaves. But if I win you'll be our slaves." Saul sought for someone to go against Goliath. He offered incentives like the hand of his daughter in marriage and exemption from taxes. But no one came forward. Each day Goliath would shout his challenge, and the whole Israelite camp shook with fear.
David heard this and was angry! Who is this pagan Philistine to insult God and His people? Someone who overheard what he said took him straight to Saul. The king took one look at this smallish youth and thought there's no way he can defeat this giant. But David replied that he had killed lions and bears while protecting his father's flocks, and this blaspheming Philistine will be like one of them. Saul gave David his armor so that he'd have some protection. But it was heavy and he wasn't used to it so he left it behind. Instead he went to the dry creek bed and picked up five smooth stones. Then he took his trusty sling and headed off to face Goliath.
When Goliath saw David he was insulted! He was hoping to face a worthy opponent, and they sent out a boy with a sling. They trash talked and then ran toward one another. David placed a stone in his sling and let it fly. It struck Goliath just above the bridge of his nose, where his helmet didn't protect him. The giant fell! Then David took Goliath's own sword and cut his head off! Both camps were in shock, but when the Israelites came to they went after the Philistines and routed them.
Saul knew he had a winner and he kept David in his permanent service (he had been going back and forth between Saul and his family). Saul's eldest son, Jonathan, admired David and the two of them became best friends. David led Israel's army and they were successful at every turn. But Saul heard what the people were saying, "Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands." He saw David as a threat to his rule. Saul would try to kill David, and we'll look into that tomorrow.
The most important lesson here is that God is not impressed with outward appearances. He looks at our hearts. He knows our innermost thoughts and feelings. He knows whether or not we trust Him. That's what really matters. Jesus said things like "blessed are the pure in heart," "for where your treasure is there will your heart be" and "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." He called the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs." They looked great on the outside but were full of rottenness. We see, then, what's really important to God. We spend lots of time grooming and dressing the outward person. How much time do we spend with God, cultivating the hearts that He desires?
We can't leave this story without first reflecting on how David's faith enabled him to face Goliath. A small man, probably shorter than most of the men in the army, took down a giant. Saul, as king, should have answered Goliath's challenge. He didn't, and no one else came forward until David. Fear held them back, and fear holds us back today from doing what God calls us to do. David Livingstone, the pioneer missionary to Africa, went into the interior of what was then known as the Dark Continent. He often encountered hostile natives and he knew that his life was in danger. He wrote this in his diary: "January 14, 1856. Evening. Felt much turmoil of spirit in prospect of having all my plans for welfare of this great region knocked on the head by savages tomorrow. But Jesus said, 'All power is given unto Me in Heaven & in Earth. Go ye therefore & teach all nations ... & lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.' This is the word of a Gentleman of the most strict & sacred honour, so that's the end of fear. I will not cross furtively tonight as I intended. Nay, verily, I shall take observations for latitude & longitude tonight, though they may be the last, I feel quiet & calm now, thank God!" He took the last place in the last boat crossing the river, giving his back to any who would put an arrow into it. But he crossed safely and shared the Gospel where it had never been heard before.
What are you afraid of? Are there giants in your life that terrify you? Give those fears to the Lord and ask Him to help you trust and not be afraid. Here is a scene from the movie "Facing the Giants." You can make this prayer your own.