Going Up Against a Goliath
Imagine playing basketball with a guy who is so tall he has to duck to avoid hitting his head on the backboard or getting his ears caught in the net—and with equally foreboding bulk and brawn. Then, imagine having to take on that guy in a wrestling match with a gym full of witnesses. And he’s representing your school’s arch rival! Finally, imagine if that guy wanted to fight you to the death, and planned to make everyone you know slaves if he won! Would you take on that challenge?
Most of us can hardly imagine such circumstances. Yet, that duel-to-the-death-for-the-fate-of-your-friends-and-family challenge is precisely what David took on when he volunteered to fight the Philistine Goliath as recorded in 1 Samuel chapter 17.
Goliath was huge. Scholars estimate he was at least nine feet, nine inches tall, and the notable weight of his armor and size of his spear indicate he was proportionally as large and strong as he was tall. He was also a career soldier: trained from his youth in the skills of battle. He was indeed a warrior-giant—very scary! However, in his arrogance, he made one fatal mistake: he defied the army of the Living God. And David would not let that pass.
David didn’t know exactly what would happen when he stepped into that battle. How did he have the courage to volunteer, and what did he do to ensure that he would win?
We know the end of the story: David was miraculously victorious. However, David didn’t know exactly what would happen when he stepped into that battle. How did he have the courage to volunteer, and what did he do to ensure that he would win? There are four things we can learn from this account that will help us have victory in our own battles. We might call these David’s Guide to Overcoming Giants.
#1 – Be Faithful
David was charged with keeping his father’s sheep—not a high-profile job by any means, and probably not much fun. It entailed many days out in the fields, alone in the cold or the heat. Perhaps the responsibility had been handed down from brother to brother beginning with Eliab, the eldest son, but as the last of eight sons, David was stuck with it. Whatever the case, David was faithful and diligent in his assignment—even when it was dangerous. Once, a lion came and took one of the sheep, and another time a bear did the same. Each time, David slew the predator with his bare hands to get the sheep back. Even when his father sent him to take food to his soldier brothers and their army captains (the errand that preceded his epic battle with Goliath), David first found a keeper for the sheep (1 Samuel 17:20). He shepherded as if the flock were his own.
David was faithful in other circumstances as well. In 1 Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel secretively anointed David to be the next king of Israel. That was quite an honor, and David’s family witnessed it, yet David didn’t let it go to his head—he continued serving in his assigned role just as before. At various times, he willingly played his harp to calm King Saul after an evil spirit came upon him. David also served as Saul’s armor-bearer, which would have been a favored position. In every situation he remained humble and faithful.
#2 – Be Zealous for God
Zeal is “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective” and David exemplified this characteristic as well. We read that when he first arrived at the soldiers’ trench, he “shouted for the battle” (1 Samuel 17:20). He was excited to see the Lord’s army in action!
When David saw Israel’s soldiers fleeing in fear of Goliath’s challenge, he wanted to know what was going on. He started saying things like, “Who does he think he is, defying the army of the Living God?!” Eliab was one of the soldiers who was fearing for his life there in the trench, and he wasn’t at all excited to hear his youngest brother’s zealous speech! Even after a sharp rebuke from his big brother though, David’s only reaction was to say, “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29). He just went right on with his attempt to rally the troops.
It wasn’t long before King Saul heard about all of this and sent for David. When the young shepherd arrived in the king’s presence, he said simply, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:32).
#3 – Put Your Faith in God
David put faith in God rather than in his own abilities. When questioned by King Saul about his willingness to fight Goliath—especially considering his youth and lack of military experience—David cited the events that had occurred while he was watching the sheep, saying, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). David had such great faith in God that King Saul eventually agreed to allow him to fight Goliath, though his potential defeat would have been devastating to Israel.
After King Saul gave permission for the duel, he wanted David to use his armor—the best in Israel no doubt. David once again evidenced his faith in God by declining. Instead, he chose tools he had proven: his staff, sling, and shepherd’s bag, in which he placed five smooth stones. Goliath was armed with brass, iron, and a man bearing his shield; David was armed with faith in God.
#4 – Give God the Glory
When he spoke with the soldiers, his focus was on the God of Israel, not himself. When he was questioned by King Saul, he gave God the credit for his victories against the lion and the bear.
Throughout this account, we read how David gave God the glory. When he spoke with the soldiers, his focus was on the God of Israel, not himself. When he was questioned by King Saul, he gave God the credit for his victories against the lion and the bear. And even as he entered battle with Goliath, he was giving God the glory.
When Goliath saw the “warrior” Israel had chosen to fight him, he mocked David, saying, “Am I a dog, that you would come at me with a stick?” David responded by giving a short speech in which you can sense his spirit—how he just wanted to work for God. He proclaimed, “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. 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 carcasses 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. 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” (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
So David had “the last word” before the famous fight. And in the end, it really wasn’t much of a fight. When Goliath started toward David, David ran towards Goliath, put one of the stones in his sling, and let it go. That stone hit Goliath in the head and he fell down on his face, probably knocked unconscious. David then did exactly what he had said he would and—using Goliath’s own sword—took Goliath’s head from him. Overcome with fear at the loss of their champion, the Philistine army retreated. Israel gave chase, and the Lord won a great victory that day.
No obstacle is too big
The Lord wants to win great victories in our lives as well. You probably won’t be challenged to a deadly fight with a giant soldier, but trials can certainly seem gigantic even if they’re not nine foot, nine inches tall! Even seeking and receiving your sanctification or the baptism of the Holy Spirit might seem insurmountable at times. Yet, no obstacle that comes our way is too big for the Lord. If we are faithful and zealous for God, keeping our faith in Him and giving Him the glory, He will help us, just like He helped David. We will be victorious!