1 Samuel 17:23-31
“And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them. 24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? Surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel. 26 And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? 27 And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him. 28 And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? And with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. 29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? 30 And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner. 31 And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him.”
One thousand years before the birth of Christ, a Champion arose among the Jewish people of Palestine. His name was David. Coming from the tribe of Judah, David was born in Bethlehem to Jesse as the youngest of eight sons. Because he was the youngest he was given the responsibility of looking after the sheep, which he did, despite personal dangers.
One day a lion came into the fold to prey upon the flock. A sheep was taken. Rather than let the incident pass, and encourage the lion to return, David put his own life in jeopardy to rescue one sheep, and protect the rest. David went after the lion and killed it in close hand combat. He was able to rescue the lamb.
But there were other wild animals lurking nearby. On another occasion a bear lumbered into the area where the sheep were grazing, and managed to gather up one in its power grip. Without hesitation David went after the bear and killed it.
From these experiences of deliverance from danger, David’s confidence in God was born. A simple lesson of life was discerned: God can protect His people from the most powerful enemies who move against them.
The time came when this principle of persuasion was tested in the arena of reality, for the tribes of Israel found themselves at war with the Philistines. The two armies had gathered at a place called Shochah.
Between the valley of Elah the armies camped. On one side of the valley was the Army of Israel. On the other side of the valley was the army of the Philistines.
Into the valley itself the Philistines sent a Champion Warrior named Goliath. This man was most unusual for he was huge. Goliath was well over 9 feet tall. His armor and weaponry weighed over 150 pounds.
In addition to his great height, Goliath was trained for battle. His preparation had begun in childhood. And so he was adequately protected. On his head was a helmet of brass. A coat of mail covered his body. Around his legs were brass coverings. His back was protected by brass as well.
Besides the personal body protection, and the inner confidence of being well trained, Goliath was further protected by a large shield, which was carried before him by a soldier. Every military device of the day was bestowed upon this one man fighting force.
As Goliath strutted up and down in the Valley of Elah he must have been an imposing figure. The brass armor surrounding his body shone brightly in the sun. There was a natural magnificence to this mighty man of war that was intimidating to the people of Israel, who stood day after day and gazed upon him.
Embolden by his training, his physical prowess, and his proven abilities in mortal combat, Goliath was proud enough to taunt the armies of Israel. With a loud voice he called out for all to hear,
“Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. 17:9 If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. 17:10 And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”
But there was no man in the army of Israel willing to fight Goliath. Not even Saul, king of the Jews, was courageous enough to face this awesome giant. And that was saying a lot, for Saul stood physically a head taller than most Jewish soldiers, and he was a veteran of violence. The king had washed his hands in the blood of many a man, and yet before Goliath he was intimidated. If there are spiritual lessons to be discerned they might include the following.
First, the enemies of God are real and numerous. The world, the flesh, and the devil are mighty foes to deal with. Sometimes our spiritual enemies appear to be nine feet tall—and unconquerable.
Second, ultimately, all the enemies of God converge into one main Champion called Sin. Sin personified is set forth as a ruling principle, a tyrant, who taunts and torments the people of God with words which intimidate, and leaves them motionless, and useless in the day of battle (Romans 6:12).
Third, like Israel of old it is still possible, and even probable, that the people of God will feel hopeless before this mighty force who can still subdue the will (2 Tim. 2:26), capture the emotions (2 Tim. 3:6), and suggest thoughts that are foolishly embraced because they “make sense” (2 Cor. 10:5).
As the church, the people of God in the Old Testament needed a Champion to meet the challenge of the evil Philistine, so the Church today needs a Champion to meet the challenge of Sin, which wants to rule and reign over all, and if that is not possible, to destroy the soul’s fellowship with God (Luke 22:31 cf. 1 Peter 5:8).
In the providence of God, Israel found a Champion in the person of David. And the Church today finds a Warrior Champion in David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 17:4; 19:11, 19).
One day while visiting his brothers, who were serving in the king’s army, David heard the constant boast of the giant named Goliath. He was astonished, not only at what the Evil One had to say in brazenness, but in the response of the people of God. David looked around and saw nothing but discouragement, defeat, and despair on the faces of the men of Israel. David also knew that this whole situation was totally unacceptable. Something had to be done, and soon.
There must be a Divine solution to the problem the people of God faced. Simply enough, the Evil One had to be destroyed. And so, with faith in God, and armed with five smooth stones taken from a living stream of water, David went forth to do battle (1 Samuel 17:40 cf. 2 Samuel 21:19).
Surprising enough the contest was no contest at all. It began with verbal jousting, as Goliath took one look at David and laughed.
“And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods” (1 Samuel 17:44).
“And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field” (1 Samuel 17:45).
When Goliath spoke as a bully, with contempt, it was usually enough to cause his opponents to shudder. But David was not impressed with the rhetoric of foolishness. In fact, the sweet singer of the psalms met the verbal challenge.
“Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 17:46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 17:47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hands.”
Such language of faith was too much for Goliath. With a massive roar of madness he moved towards David, who moved towards him in the simplicity of belief that his sovereign God would give the victory.
“And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:49).
“And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.”
Look now from that fallen giant upon his face before the man of God, and behold Jesus Christ who also moved against the enemy of His people. In Luke 9:51 we read of the Lord who “steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” At a place called Calvary the greatest contest of the ages was fought. The earth shook. The sky grew dark. Hell roared, but heaven shouted back,
“It is finished!
The battle is over.
It is finished!
The victory has been won.
It is finished!
The triumph of the ages!
And Jesus Christ is Lord!”
While Goliath laid with his face in the dirt before the shepherd he so despised, the Bible says that David picked up the enemies own sword and cut his head off (1 Samuel 17:51). In this action David anticipated that moment when the Greater Shepherd of men’s souls would crush the Serpent’s head, according to prophecy (Genesis 3:15). What a glorious victory David and the son of David have won for the people of God. Now the people of God can do today what Israel of old did to the Philistines.
First, the Church can shout for joy. The nation of Israel did (1 Samuel 17:52).
“And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron.”
When the army of Israel saw their greatest enemy dead they shouted for joy. If there is one emotion that should always characterized the people of God it is joy. The words “joy” and “rejoice” are found frequently in the New Testament, and for good reason. Jesus Christ is alive! A redemption, which has actually been accomplished, can now be applied. The gospel is real! And compared to sins being forgiven, nothing else really matters.
Second, the Church can go forth to defeat its enemies just as following the death of Goliath the army of Israel went forth and defeated the army of the Philistines. There is still a battle to fight even after the greatest of victories. Spiritually Christians are all too familiar with the lesser soldiers of Satan who serve in the battalion called The Flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). Christians know the familiar faces of their Warrior enemies. So the armor of God must be worn (Ephesians 6:11) as the saints go forth to defeat their enemies.
Third, the Church can enjoy the spoils of victory, as Israel enjoyed the spoils of war (1 Samuel 17:53). The spoils of victory for the Church include the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, against such there is no law.
Now what turned the situation around for Israel of old so that they could go forth to defeat their enemies and enjoy the spoils of victory? The answer in part is this. David believed there was a cause worth contending for, and he convinced others of the same.
What took Christ to the Cross-of Calvary? The answer is that He believed there was a cause worth suffering and dying for—even the salvation of souls.
What will transform Christians today? Perhaps the answer is a renewed belief that there is a cause worth living for. It is possible that by and large the Church at the end of the 20th century has forgotten there is still a cause.
What has happened? The Enemy of the soul has come to taunt the Church.
The Enemy of the soul has come to undermine the importance of the local assembly, not by a frontal assault, but by sweetness and kindness. The clever thinking is this. Sunday services are good—for others. Prayer meeting is good—for others. Doctrine is good—for others. Bible study is good—for others. Witnessing is good—for others.
And so, with the sweetness of personal indifference, and more pressing matters, local assemblies are faced with a heavenly way to know a subtle defeat. The end results are predictable, in that one by one those spiritual activities that were appointed to strengthen and encourage are in danger of being discarded, such as a radio program here, a home Bible study there, a Sunday School hour, and then the prayer meeting and youth programs.
The spoils of victory might yet belong to the enemy. But not all is lost. Perhaps a Warrior Champion will arise and say, “Is there not a cause?” That spiritual champion could be you. Every Christian could be a David, and say with the voice of conviction, “There is still a cause!”
What is the cause? It is threefold.
First, the cause is to preach the gospel to the end of the earth as per Matthew 28:19, 20.
The Lord said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Christ wants His people to move out to meet the enemy, engage in triumphant acts, and enjoy the spiritual spoils of the battle.
Second, the cause is to grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
“Refining Fuller, make me clean,
On me thy costly pearl bestow;
Tho art thyself the Pearl I prize,
The only joy I seek below.
Disperse the clouds that damp my soul,
And make my heart unfit for thee;
Cast me not off, but seal me now
Thine own peculiar property.”
Third, the cause is to give. All Christians are asked to give of their time and talents and resources for the work of the ministry, the good of men, and the glory of God. Go! Grow! Give!
Why? Because there is still a cause, and with the cause a great promise. Jesus said,
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
Those who honor God will be honored with the spoils of victory. Just ask David and the army of Israel. The alternative is a life of wasted years.
Wasted years, wasted years,
Oh how foolish!
Since you walked on in darkness and strife.
Turn around! Turn around!
God is calling.
He is calling you from a life of wasted years.
Have you wandered alone along life’s pathways?
Have you lived without God a life of fear?
Have you searched for the great hidden secret?
Is your life long with wasted years?
Wasted years, wasted years.
Oh how foolish!
As you walk home in darkness and fear.
Turn around! Turn around!
God is calling.
He is calling you from a life of wasted years.