Today’s One Year Bible reading in 1 Samuel 17:1–18:4 is among the most familiar—and probably the most popular—of Bible stories: David and Goliath. We know the basics of the story—as the armies of the Philistines and Israel faced off against each other, the Philistines’ champion, the pagan giant Goliath taunted the army of Israel and mocked their God, and the God-fearing shepherd boy David killed him, using his sling as his weapon.
So the underdog triumphed! We all love a story of an underdog overcoming the odds and winning.
But as always in Scripture, there’s more to this story. As I read this very familiar account, my attention turned to a detail I hadn’t focused on before: Goliath challenged the army of Israel to send a man to fight him one-on-one. If the Israelite killed Goliath, the Philistines would serve Israel; but if Goliath killed the Israelite (as he expected to do), Israel would serve the Philistines. So the consequences of the man-to-man battle would be very great for the entire nation.
King Saul had offered a generous reward for any man brave enough to accept Goliath’s challenge: great wealth, the hand of the king’s daughter in marriage, and exemption from taxation for his family. Both the reward and the consequences were great.
When David offered to fight Goliath, it certainly seemed like an unequal contest. How could a teenage boy hope to defeat a trained warrior? Not surprisingly, when David offered to fight Goliath, Saul was very skeptical, and reluctant to accept David’s offer. He offered David the conventional armor and weapons that would be used in battle. But after trying it on, David refused—as a shepherd and not a soldier, he wasn’t used to such armor and weapons.
So why did Saul decide to let David take on Goliath, putting the future of the nation of Israel at such risk? Surely the likely result would be very bad for Israel. Was Saul really such a gambler? Or was it just that he had no better options?
Goliath had taunted King Saul and the army of Israel daily for 40 days. Despite Saul’s generous reward, no one had stepped forward to fight Goliath and (hopefully) defeat him and claim the reward. Saul himself, as the king (and one who was reputed to be “a head taller than anyone else”), had the responsibility of dealing with the threat that Goliath and the Philistine army posed. But he didn’t “step up to the plate” either.
So when David stepped up and spoke with a confidence born of knowing God, indicating that God’s power was upon him, Saul decided to put the fate of the nation in the hands of this young shepherd. Was Saul trusting in God—or scared and desperate—or perhaps a bit of all three? Regardless of the reason, God honored David’s faith and demonstrated His care for Israel—and for the honor and glory of His name. As David had said to Goliath,
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day … the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s ….”
This account is full of many spiritual truths and principles. Here are just a few of them:
- David was more concerned about God’s glory than his own safety;
- David trusted in God far more than did King Saul and his army;
- David had already experienced God’s overcoming power against fearsome adversaries—a lion and a bear—which gave him confidence in God;
- Sometimes God lets us “get backed into a corner,” when our only option is to trust God; and when that happens,
- It’s never foolhardy to trust completely in God.
We would do well to apply these principles in our own lives. Who’s with me?