By Ralph Walker
“Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, weighing in at 230 pounds, with a height of 6 foot, 4 inches, winner of 63 professional bouts, holder of the Olympic gold medal in boxing, present champion of the world, Goliath.
“His opponent, with a weight of 153 pounds and a height of 5 foot, 7 inches, first time ever in a. professional fight, the 14 year old, Ben Jesse.”
Some fight, huh? Is there any doubt who would win that one? Do you think there would be any takers in a bee on the Champ? I mean, who would think the kid might have a chance? Maybe someone who had read 1 Samuel 17 lately. Though the names, characteristics, ages, and situation have been altered, the basic confrontation really did happen.
America, loves underdogs. We thrill to stories of heroism. Tales in which overwhelming odds were dashed and defeat was turned into swat victory. These stories give us hope that we, too, ordinary citizens though we may be, an do great things if we date. And isn’t that what David is teaching us? I Samuel 17 gives spiritual incentive to every Christian who reads it. It is the classic ample of the underdog thrashing the champion. Compare the two opponents.
First, Goliath of Gath, Champion Fighter. He stood about 9 = feet tall, wore some of the “heaviest threads” around (1201bs of armor) and hefted a spear whoa head alone weighed more than a 16 lb. bowling ball. (Can you imagine throwing a bowling ball stuck on the end of a long spear?) He was confident, yea, a real braggart, but then who would not be in his shoes? He had been a warrior since childhood, one of those “child wonders.” But his self-reliance and blasphemy of God’s people led him to the last brawl in which he would ever engage. The blood shed would be his own.
David, Son of Jesse, was the baby of a family of eight sons. It was not uncommon to lave David out of important matters (sec 1 Sam. 16:11; 17:13-15).-He was hand-some, mote so because of his unusual auburn hair (ruddy in KJV). Multi-talented, he played the harp so well he came to the immediate attention of Saul’s advisors. He wrote some of the deepest spiritual poetry ever read. He was a shepherd, a hunter of note (having killed lion and bear), and had been appointed as, armor bearer to Saul. But most importantly, David was a man “after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; 16:7).
David brought food to his brothers on the battlefield of Elah during the conflict with Philistia; he arrived just in time to watch the daily ritual. For forty days, Israel had begun the morning by suiting up in armor and going out to war. They gathered on the rim of the valley and gazed at the enemy arrayed on the other hill.
But just as they got up nerve to rush out, the big man came down. Goliath would strut up and down the valley, roaring that there was no opponent of the “servants of Saul” (he did not even give them credit for being soldiers) to face him. The rules were simple – whoever won in single combat could claim the entire army of his rival as slaves. Like a Muhammed Ali of old, he had completely psyched the Israelites into thinking they could not possibly beat him. Even the incentives of Saul – tax free status, great wealth and the hand of Saul’s daughter – could not move a man to walk down into that “valley of death” to face the Champ. Like John Wayne in a western movie. Goliath stood alone in the valley and no mm would mat him in battle.
Now imagine the anger of these Israelite soldiers when a kid starts questioning their valor. They had been humiliated for forty days. David was saying, “I’ll kill this heathen for you.” Don’t we have similar scenes re-enacted today? The veterans of religious wars grumble and mutter about conditions in the world, or the break-out of some false doctrine, and then some little untried and unknown boy says, “Can’t you deal with it? Cause I can if you won’t.” He is branded as brash, grew, cocky, and a sure-fire failure. Brethren, I am not saying youth has all the answers. But sometimes, a David will venture where an Eliab or Shammah will refuse to go. We need to give our David’s a chance. It may be they can win. Nobody told them they could not beat the giant. And if they do suffer loss, at least they did what they had to do.
It is strange that David would venture into mortal com-bat without that essential weapon, the sword. Yet verse 50 tells us there was no sword in David’s hand. I think there are some good lessons in that fact.
1. David was not a soldier. He had come from the sheep pastures. When presented with Saul’s armor, he felt un-comfortable (vv. 38, 39). But though he was untrained in war, he went out to fight for Israel. The boy of in-significance was about to become the David “who has slain his ten thousands” (I Sam. 18:7). 1 am reminded of Paul’s statement of 1 Corinthians 1:27, ” . . God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong.” Here was a boy, of no proven skill in combat, facing one who was raised for that purpose. The lesson? So many of us sit and refuse to do what needs do-ing because there are others better trained to do it. We are waiting for a bigger, better champion to come along and fight for us. We hire preachers to be hired gun stingers for the church. We let battle-scarred elders continue to march into battle to represent us. There is no reason for us to watch the battle take place from the safety of the hillside. Let us all get into the valley and wage warfare for God. There are battles needing our efforts in personal work, in public worship, and in restoring the reprobate. Instead of thinking that we need a mercenary army of God, let us see a people of warfare picked from among the ranks of volunteers – ordinary citizens of the kingdom of God.
2. David had weapons of his own. Verse 40 tells us he armed himself with the sling and staff that had been cons-tant companions in the fields. He was comfortable with them. With them, he had overcome a bear and a lion. He knew what he could do with them. And the lesson applies to us. We find ourselves inundated with new methods for every phase of our Christian labor. The temptation is there to grab after each new thing because others have found success with them. But brethren, if we can mat with success using those methods and means we have been using for years, why not consider the attitude of David? He knew what he had done with the sling and staff. He would stick with them. Saul may have bloodied his sword many times, but that did not mean that David would automatically be able to win with it. If something works, why change?
But mother weapon that David used, and certainly this was his most valuable, was the power of God. He declared his confidence in this weapon in v. 37. We want to note that David did not expect God to kill Goliath for him. No, no more than David had watched God kill the lion and bear. It had required the work of David, but God had helped. David took risks, and exerted himself, and enjoyed the praise and glory, but God helped him always. God will not work for us, but will work with us. When we pray for God’s help, let us remember that He will walk into the valley at our side, but never in our place. He stands beside us, not before us. We must be prepared to be the answer to our own prayers, as tools of the fighting God of Israel.
Finally, there is a lesson in the fact that David did not utilize the weapons of his enemy. Because he won with a sl-ing, there could be no expressions that “he was just better than Goliath at Goliath’s own game.” When we fight the Devil, we cannot hope to win by “fighting fire with fire.” We only get burned. Others may irritate us, verse us, humiliate us and lie about us. We must not reply in kind. Our answering punches must be the retaliation of Jesus, who “. . . being reviled, reviled not” (1 Pet. 2:23). Paul said our weapons are not fleshly, of the world because we ourselves are not of the world (2 Cor. 10:3, 4).
If we can adapt to our warfare all these great lessons that David leaves for us, who knows but that our conflict with the Goliaths we face may not be just as spectacular?
Some may be saying, “Well, if I had the opportunity to face Goliath, I’d take him on, but I just don’t have my giants to battle with.” I recall the story of two men who were lying in grass after a hard morning’s work. One was big, brawny and powerful. The other was small and wiry. The second man was speaking. He said, “Man, if I had your muscles and body, I’d go into those woods over yonder and find the biggest, meanest, hungriest bear in there, and I’d rip him apart just to show how tough I am.”
His partner looked at him out of the comer of his eye, pointed at the woods over his shoulder with a thumb and said simply, “Little man, there’s plenty of little bears in them woods.”
Get the point? Okay, got your sling ready?
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 15, p. 456-457
August 4, 1983