Week 16 – David and Goliath

Unlike the Oakland Athletics of this year’s MLB season, the A’s of 1990 was a beast of a team. The Athletics were appearing in their third straight World Series, having swept the Giants the year before. Their roster included four future Hall of Famers, not including the Bash Brothers pair of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. Ricky Henderson, one of the team’s four future Hall of Famers, finished the regular season with 65 stolen bases, 28 home runs, and a .325 batting average, winning him the 1990 AL MVP. The Bash Brothers combined for 76 home runs and 209 total runs that season and followed Henderson in the batting lineup. The A’s also had two 20+ game-winning pitchers on the team, one of which being Bob Welch, who won the Cy Young award for the season. Eckersley had a stellar season as a closer, too, with a 0.61 ERA and 48 saves. They were favored to win the 1990 World Series; they were, in a word, “Goliath.”

Coming off a mediocre season in 1989, the Red’s success in 1990 came as a surprise. I don’t want to sound like there wasn’t any talent on this team because there absolutely was! This team included future Hall of Famers as well, including Barry Larkin. Yet, this David defeating Goliath story can be mostly credited to the efforts of the Reds’ pitching staff that shut down the powerful A’s lineup by not allowing them to score a run past the third inning of any game resulting in a 4-0 sweep. This World Series matchup from yesteryear being described as David versus Goliath isn’t unique. We often hear a matchup between two unevenly matched opponents in this way, yet what can we learn from the original battle between the actual David and Goliath that will help us today?

After Saul was selected as Israel’s first king, he began to rule Israel well. However, like in all of life’s efforts, how one finishes is more important than how one starts. We see the LORD remove His Spirit from Saul and Saul from the monarchy in 1 Samuel 15 because of Saul’s disobedience and pride. After some time passes, God instructs Samuel to travel to Bethlehem and find Jesse because one of his sons would be the next king of Israel.

Faithfully, Samuel obeys, and God shows Samuel that He has chosen the youngest of Jesse’s sons, David, to be the next king of Israel. Samuel anoints David with olive oil, setting him apart as the next king of God’s people, but it’ll be 10 – 15 years before David becomes king. Since David became king at age thirty and ruled for forty years, many think that Samuel could have commissioned David between 10 and 15 years of age.

Time passes, and David finds himself soothing Saul by playing music for him when he is troubled by an evil spirit. Though Saul is pleased with David’s services and requests that he continues to minister to him through music, it seems that David still watched his father’s sheep from time to time, for it is from the duty of shepherding that Jesse calls David from as he sends him to the battlefield to retrieve a report on the state of his older brothers and the war itself. While in the army’s camp, David gets his first encounter with Goliath. As David speaks with Israelite soldiers, Goliath appears and shouts his usual taunt (1 Samuel 17:21-23). David sees Saul’s army run in fright but is also informed about the King’s reward for the person who defeats the giant warrior. David’s efforts to confirm whether or not the King’s offer was valid drew criticism from his older brother and the attention of others as they reported David’s questioning to Saul, who, after receiving notice of his interest, sent for David.

Once face to face with King Saul, David told him not to worry about this Philistine because he would go and fight him. Looking at things, including David, from the surface (1 Samuel 16:7), Saul told David that as a boy, he didn’t have a chance because Goliath had been a man of war since his youth. Yet David saw the opposing mammoth warrior as an easy foe to conquer for the living God of Israel, who had earlier revealed Himself as a warrior by defeating another powerful enemy, Pharoah, and his army. The following is a line from the song Moses and the Israelites sang from experiencing God fighting their enemies on their behalf.

Exodus 15:3

“The LORD is a warrior;
Yahweh is His name.

Why could David look at the current challenge with faith and not fear? David could be confident despite the great challenge ahead because he knew who God was. In Psalm 9:10, David says,

Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.

When David says those who know God’s name, he is describing those who know God’s person. In ancient times, someone’s name communicated the sum of who they were. Here, David says that those who know God’s attributes and ways and commune with Him will trust Him. Even at a young age, David knew the LORD and loved his God. How do we know that David knew who God was? We know that David knew who God was because of how he refers to God no less than three times by different titles in the later part of 1 Samuel 17.

For example, as David exchanges words with Goliath as he runs out to the fight, he refers to God as the LORD of Heaven’s Armies (1 Samuel 1:3, 17:45)! This name of God describes Him as the commander and chief of the angelic army. I can think of no more precise picture of the power communicated through this name of God than when Jesus told Peter that He could ask the Father for thousands of angels to protect them and that the Father would send them instantly (Matthew 26:53) on the night of His arrest. Using His angelic army, God would fight on their behalf. David knew God’s name, His person, and that Yahweh is a God who will fight His people’s battles!

David acted in faith instead of fear because he knew who God was, as revealed to His people through the Scriptures, like Exodus 15:3 (and Deuteronomy 5:26 – “the living God” and “the LORD” which appears over 1,600 times in the Pentateuch).

We, too, can act in faith instead of fear when we know God’s name, when we know Him as He has revealed Himself through Scripture.

David acted in faith over fear because He remembered how God had fought for him and delivered him from harm in the past.

David told Saul that,

1 Samuel 17:34-37

“I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”

Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”

Remembering God’s faithfulness to us throughout the years will cause us to confidently face our current challenge in faith instead of fear.

Isaiah 43:1-3

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
    O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
    I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place

By outward circumstances, the people of Judah had reason to be afraid of Babylon’s army and exile. Through His message, delivered by Isaiah, God calls His people to look up towards Him and away from their circumstances on the horizon. He does so by reminding them that He is their Creator. He is Elohim, the All-powerful One. Not only does He remind them that He is the Sovereign Creator of the universe but that He is a God who is near to them. He reminds His people that they are His and that He will be with them when they go through the rivers of difficulty and fire of oppression, for He is their Savior. In the midst of Isreal’s bleak conditions, God calls them to remember what He has done for them in the past. He calls their attention to His mighty works of creation, deliverance through the Red Sea, their rescue from Egypt, and His choosing of them as His covenant people. After urging His people to remember His mighty deeds in the past on their behalf (though this generation was far removed from the generation that experienced the actual miracles alluded to in these verses), He commands them not to be afraid, for He is with them (Isaiah 43:5a).

Throughout Scripture, God’s mighty works throughout Israel’s history are recounted so that the people remember who they are and who their God is regardless of their current circumstances so that they will act in faith. This same principle of remembering what God has done in the past both in redemption history and our personal lives, can be a catalyst for us to act in faith and not be paralyzed by fear in our current situation. David exhibits this discipline in his life in Psalm 9. The first twelve verses of chapter nine recall who God is and what He has done in David’s life. These reminders of God’s faithfulness in the past propel David to pray in faith concerning his present difficulty (9:13). Start a list of God’s mighty works in your life so that when you feel fear paralyzing your faith, you can dwell on the list and see how God has delivered you from the paw of the bear and the lion in the past so for sure, He will deliver you from the hand of this giant as well! Add to this list each time you experience God’s faithful work in your life.

David’s faith propelled him into action on the field of battle.

After David rejected the offer to use Saul’s armor, David picked up five smooth stones from a stream and started the trek across the valley to face his opponent. While Goliath hurled insults towards David and his God, Goliath seems to have forgotten about his god’s, Dagon’s, encounter with the Ark of the Lord in 1 Samuel 5. David boldly throws the giant’s words back at him and calls his attention to the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom he had defied. He made sure that Goliath knew the One who would conquer him that very battle and that everyone present, both armies, would know that the LORD rescues His people (17:38-47)!

Did David really believe that his God was one that rescued His people? I think the answer to that question is obvious, but if you are still unsure, look at how David approaches Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:48.

As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.

David was so sure he knew God was because of the revelation of Himself to David through the Scriptures, his personal experiences, and of the intimate times in His presence that David’s faith caused him to sprint to engage a foe that caused trained soldiers to shutter. I like to think that David was in a continual sprint as he reached into his shepherd bag, pulled out a stone, placed it in his sling, and then hurled it at the seemingly impenetrable enemy. The stone hit Goliath in the forehead, and the giant fell. The Hebrew isn’t clear if the Philistine was killed by the rock to the head or simply knocked out. Whatever the case, David ensured the warrior wasn’t getting back up as he took Goliath’s sword and beheaded the downed mammoth. David’s defeat of the Philistine resulted in a shot of faith to the Israelite army and a dose of fear for the Philistine army. Emboldened, the Israelites routed the Philistines and enjoyed the spoils of war afterward (17:50-58).

True faith will propel us into action for Christ and His Kingdom.

Just like David’s faith caused him to face off against a human tank, our faith, if genuine, will propel us into action for the honor of the God who rescued us from an army of enemies we could not conquer in our own power. The half-brother of Jesus, once a skeptic of Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah, placed his faith in Jesus after His death and resurrection. This former skeptic becomes a sincere believer who becomes a leader in the church in Jerusalem. He has seen how genuine faith in a God who delivers His people from the penalty of their sins leads to action. In his letter, he spends several sentences in chapter two explaining that faith without action isn’t true belief; below is just one of those statements.

James 2:26

Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

When faith dominates unhealthy fear in our lives, we will run toward a direction that will result in God’s glory and deliverance, ours and others. What good work do you know God is calling you to do? For David, it was defying a pagan warrior who was defying the living God. For you, it might be sharing your faith with another or praying in faith about a current situation you are facing. Maybe it is answering a call to serve on a ministry team in your church or calling your pastor or sibling in Christ to ask for accountability and payer so that you can experience deliverance from a habitual sin or destructive habit. Maybe He is calling you into full-time ministry, starting a non-profit or business, or be a light for Him in a dark place or people group that requires courage and boldness. Whatever He is calling you to that causes fear to begin to paralyze you from being obedient, immerse yourself in God’s Word so that you know God’s name, remember what He has done and thus what He is possible of doing now, and see how God will use you to slay giants for His glory, others’ benefit, and your joy!

Know God

See how another shepherd conquered a foe that we could not defeat on our own and how His victory is our victory now and for eternity because of His epic battle, we can know God!

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