It’s tempting when speaking about David and Goliath to jump straight to the question, “Who are the Goliaths in your life?” Certainly we all face many threats (as I noted yesterday), but if we’re not careful this kind of thinking carries the risk of reducing David’s very real battle to the level of a parable, proverb or an allegory. The “story” of David and Goliath is first and foremost a historical account of a real battle fought between combatants, with real consequences on the line:
25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”
26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”
28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” (1 Samuel 17:25-44)
Goliath was not a problem the Israelites could ignore, but nobody quite had the courage to face up to him either. Despite the incredible rewards on offer from Saul, not one man had stepped forward yet to face the giant Philistine. On the one hand, it’s hard to blame them. After all, almost certain death awaited anyone foolish enough to attempt such a bold and brash attack.
Yet into this stalemate walked David, a “mere” youth in the eyes of his older brother, and a pathetic looking sight all decked up in the king’s royal armor. Somehow, his courage was so certain and his boldness so grounded that he swept everyone along with him. Even though all their fates rested in his hands, something about David convinced them that he might actually be able to achieve the impossible and defeat their enemy.
Goliath was not a metaphor representing “fear” or “loneliness” or “temptation.” He was a violent giant of a man, breathing out curses and ready to snap David like a twig. If David did not win this fight, the nation would be over-run, Saul would most likely be put to death, and Israel would find themselves enslaved once again by a foreign nation.
So David stepped out onto the field. His five smooth stones don’t represent five things we need to do to defeat the giants in our lives. They were simply five stones. Five stones of the sort David had apparently used a hundred times previously in his life to defeat bears and lions who attacked the sheep he was watching. Although almost unfathomable to us, such “primitive” weapons could apparently be almost as deadly as a rifle. And soon they would find their mark in the giant’s ugly skull.
David knew this was a real fight he was entering, and he knew the danger was very real. But more importantly he knew that he served a mighty God who was bigger than any enemy, however fearsome or terrifying. That didn’t mean, however, that God was going to do the fighting for him. Although occasionally God acts supernaturally to slay our enemies from a distance, most often we have to stand and fight.
David reassured Saul, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” However, David still had to go out face the giant all alone, in front of the vast armies waiting on both sides to see what would happen.
Sometimes I long for God to do the fighting for me, and occasionally He has, and He does. But David’s story here reminds us that there are real fights we will all face, and even though we can have confidence because God is on our side, the enemy will nevertheless still need to be engaged. So pray for confidence and prepare to fight!