Defeating Giants

I Samuel 17

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
September 2020

Today, we come to one of the greatest stories in the Bible.  In fact, it is one of the greatest stories in all literature.  It is one of the most famous stories in pages of Scripture.  Everyone knows it.  Every child knows it.  This passage is as famous in the OT as John 3:16 is in the NT.  Even if you have never set foot in a church or opened a Bible, you know this story.

It is a story about FIGHTING.  This was an epic battle between two fighters.  Two men squared off to fight.  It is perhaps history’s most famous battle.  A soldier in one army challenges a soldier in another army to a one-one-one battle to the death.  The underdog wins.  The good guy wins.

It is a story about FAITH.  David is great example of incredible faith, faith in action.  He is probably somewhere between fifteen and twenty years old. He was in his late teens and he displays bold faith in this chapter.

This is not just a children’s story.  In fact, part of the story is too graphic for children.  It is much too violent for children.  David does not just kill Goliath; David cuts his head off.  He decapitates him.  Why did he do that?  He wanted to make sure he was dead.  Maybe he had seen one too many monster movies where you think the bad guy is dead but then he comes back to life and attacks you

David wanted to make sure he was dead and have some proof.  When he went to talk to King Saul after the battle, he had Goliath’s severed head in one hand and Goliath’s sword in the other (I Samuel 17:57).  David also carried Goliath’s bloody head all the way to Jerusalem (I Samuel 17:54), which is sixteen miles away.

In fact, it is not just story at all.  It is history.  It actually took place.  We have found the actual place in Israel where this battle took place.  You can visit the Valley of Elah today where David slew Goliath.  There is a video on the internet that takes you right to the place where it happened.[1]

Today, we want to look at what happens in this chapter, but we also want to see how it applies to us.  What lessons does it have for us today?  If all we do is read this and talk about how David killed Goliath, we missed the whole point of the chapter.  This chapter has the potential to change your life.

Let’s begin by getting some background.  The chapter begins with a battle between two nations.  The come together to fight.  The Israelites are one hill.  The Philistines are on the other hill and there was a valley in between them (I Samuel 17:3).  The Philistines were on the north and the Israelites were on the south.  That raises an important question.

Identity of the Philistines

We know who the Israelites were.  Who were the Philistines?  The Philistines were Canaanites.  They were like the Native Americans who were in America before the white man appeared.  The Philistines were in the Promise Land before the Jews appeared.  They were a pagan people who were under divine judgment.

There were five Philistine cities in the Promise Land (Joshua 13:3).  Gath was one of them.  Goliath was a soldier from Gath.  People who were from Gath were called Gittites, not Hittites but Gittites (II Samuel 6:10).  Archaeologists have excavated Goliath’s hometown.[2]

The Jews were told to kick them out of the Promise Land.  Jonathon had some success against them, but they never were quite able to completely get rid of them.  On this occasion, there was a stalemate.  The two nations were at a stand-off.

Neither side really wanted to fight.  They used a method of warfare called representative warfare.  It was warfare by proxy.  The best fighter on one side was sent to fight the best fighter on the other side.  There are examples of this taking place in the ancient world.  It did happen.  The most well-known soldier in the Philistine army was named Goliath.

A Philistine Champion

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. (I Samuel 17:4-7 NIV)

1) He was strong

He carried a coat of armor that was about a hundred twenty-five pounds (I Samuel 17:5 NLT) and a spear that weighted fifteen pounds (I Samuel 17:7 NLT).  He was not just a soldier; he was the best fighter that the Philistines had.  He was the Philistine Samson.  It was like sending out Bruce Lee to fight.

2) He was tall

He was huge.  He was tank.  This was a tall Bruce Lee.  He was like a walking mountain. The Bible says that he was “six cubits and a span” (I Samuel 17:4).  That is about nine feet, nine inches.  Goliath was big.  He was almost ten feet tall. The NBA would have loved to have Goliath.  The tallest member of the NBA was only 7 feet 7 inches tall.

3) He was armed

He was not only tall, he was armed.  His body was full of armor.  He was covered in metal. He was covered from head to toe in bronze.  The Philistines had the best technology of the day.

4) He was intimidating

Goliath was big.  He was tall.  He towered over everyone else.   He was intimidating.  He was physically intimidating. He was a bully.  Have you ever faced a bully?  Goliath was not just a bully; he was a big bully.  He used words to taunt and hurt people.  He used psychological warfare.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. (I Samuel 17:8-11 NIV)

He challenged the Israelites to fight him.  He did it every day.  He did it two times a day.  He did it for forty days (I Samuel 17:16).  He laughed at the Israelites.  Their army was weak to him.  None of them were man enough to fight him.  He saw them all as a bunch of cowards.

He struck fear into an entire army.  All of the soldiers were completely paralyzed in fear.  He was so big that and no one dared to fight him. No one had the guts to face him.  You would think there would be one person in the army brave enough to fight him.  The one you would expect to fight him was Saul.

He was head and shoulders taller than everyone else in the nation (I Samuel 9:2), but he would not fight him.  He was too old.  God had rejected him.  The Spirit had left him, and he was not about to face him.

The next person you would expect to fight him was Jonathon.  He was known for his incredible bravery.  He attacked the Philistines twice by himself.  He defeated twenty Philistine soldiers by himself but even he dared not fight him.

Joseph’s brothers were in the army, but they would not fight him.  None of the soldiers would fight him.  They wouldn’t fight him, even with good incentives.  King Saul promised three rewards to the one who beat Goliath. What were the rewards?

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.” (I Samuel 17:25 NIV).

Saul promised money and marriage to the one who fought Goliath and won but no one took him up on the offer. It would have been a suicide mission.  You would have to be crazy to go do it.  It is like going out and fighting Godzilla.

Challenge Accepted

Then, David arrives on the scene. When we first saw David in the Bible, he was just a shepherd.  Then, he became a musician.  He became Saul’s court musician.  In this chapter, we see him a great fighter, a brave warrior.  David had many different skills and abilities.  He was also a man after God’s own heart.

Why does he show up?  He didn’t show up because he wanted to be famous or be put in the record books.  He did not show up to show how tough he was.  He did not show up to fight anyone.  He did not show up to sign up for the army.  He was too young.  You had to be twenty to be in the army (Numbers 1:3).  He showed by because he was sent by his father on a mission.

His dad sends him to bring food (ten loaves of bread, ten cheeses).  The brothers got the bread.  The commanded of the unit got the cheese (I Samuel 17:17-18).  He gave cheese to the big cheese.  Apparently “the army was running low on rations.  Families of the troops held provide for the army.”[3]  Plus, it had been more than a month since they drew up battle lines and Jesse wanted to find out what was going on.  There was no television or internet three thousand years ago.

How far did David travel to get there?  The distance between Bethlehem and the Valley of Elah was about fourteen miles.  David had a long trip to take.  We are told he left EARLY in the morning (I Samuel 17:20).  When he got there, he saw Goliath out challenge, taunting and mocking the Israelites, blaspheming God.

A couple things are very interesting here.  This whole battle would not have taken place unless TWO THINGS took place.  The whole battle would not have taken place unless Jesse sent the right man and unless David came at the right time.  Jesse had eight sons.  Three were in the army and five were at home.

He wanted to send some food along.  He just happened to ask David to do it.  If he asked any of his other brothers, this battle would not have taken place.  David just happened to come at the right time when Goliath was out talking.  If he came at the wrong time, the battle would not have taken place.

David asks some simple questions.  David accepts the challenge.  Other soldiers hear that he is interested in fighting Goliath and is not afraid.  Saul hears about it.  David is taken to the king. He tries to give him his own armor, but David rejects them.  He can’t wear Saul’s armor.  It doesn’t even fit him.

David goes to the front line and Goliath sees him.  Goliath is insulted that the Israelites did not send their best fighter against him.  They just send a boy.  Instantly, his guard went down.  They did not send a soldier out.  They sent out a shepherd without any body armor on.  Goliath mocked and cursed him.  He threatened him.

David utters a prophecy.  The Holy Spirit came on him.  How did he know what was going to happen?  God must have revealed it to him.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. (I Samuel 17:46 NIV)

Seven Steps to Killing Goliath

What does this story say to us today? What is the application? A common approach today in some evangelical circles is that David is not us. It is Christ.[4]  That makes nonsense of the text. David was a man anointed by God and empowered by God.  He was a man filled with the Holy Spirit and used by God but he was just a man, an imperfect man.

The analogy does not work.  Jesus did not kill Satan and cut his head off.  The one who died on the cross was Jesus, not Satan (although He also rose from the dead). Satan has been judged but he is still roaming the earth wreaking havoc.

He did not defeat some giant greater than he was.  Jesus did not defeat a giant who was greater or stronger than he was.  Jesus was the one who created the angel who became Satan.  He is his Creator.

Chandler says that the Bible is not about us, which is true, but it is a complete straw man argument.  No one says that the Bible is about us.  The question is NOT whether the Bible is about us.  The question is whether the Bible APPLIES to us and on that point there can be no doubt.  The Bible applies to us.  The OT applies to us today.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 NIV)

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”

8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (I Corinthians 10:6-11 NIV)

I Samuel 17 does apply to us.  It shows that God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people, like a poor country shepherd boy. What he did for David, He can do for us. There are seven powerful applications from this chapter. There are seven steps to killing giants today.

1) Identify the giants

The first lesson from this chapter is to identify who the giants are in your life.  You can’t solve a problem until you know what the problem is.  We have all faced a giant in our life. What is a giant to me may not be a giant to you.  What is a giant to you may not be a giant to me.

What exactly is a giant from this chapter?  A giant is a challenge or problem that seems impossible.  It is something that terrifies and intimidates you.  It is something that you run from in fear.  It is something that you are afraid to face or confront.  It is something that enslaves you and brings you into bondage.

We fight battles today and some of them are against giants. All of us face giants in life.  Giants come in many different forms.  They are not always people.  None of us will probably face a physical Goliath that we have to fight but there are some modern-day Goliaths.  Max Lucado says that “Goliaths still roam our world.”[5]

“Your Goliath doesn’t carry a sword or shield; he brandishes blades of unemployment, sexual abuse or depression.  Your giant doesn’t parade up and down hills of Elah; he prances through your office, your bedroom, your classroom.  He brings bills you can’t pay, grades you can’t make, people you can’t please, whiskey you can’t resist, pornography you can’t refuse, a career you can’t escape, a past you can’t shake and a future you can’t face.”[6]

2) Remember victories

Kill your lion and bear first.  That is what David did.  He did not start off killing giants.  He had to work his way up.  He killed a lion and a bear first and he did that when no one was watching.  He did that in private without an audience.[7]  Many people want to go out and kill giants and take on big problems when they cannot even take on small problems.

What experience do you have?  What spiritual successes do you have?  That’s the problem.  Some of us do not have any victories in our life but we should have some.  How has God already worked in your life? David killed a lion and a bear, but he was not content with that.  He was willing to see God do even greater things.

3) Trust God

Trust God in your problem.  Too often we try to fight our battles alone.  Jesus said, “With Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  David did not fight this battle on his own.  For David, the battle was not personal.  This was not really a battle between David and Goliath.

It was a battle between Goliath and God.  David said, “for the battle is the Lord’s” (I Samuel 17:47).  The battle was God’s, not David’s.  This was really a battle between Goliath’s gods and David’s God, although he played a role in it.

45 David said to the Philistine, “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. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 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, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (I Samuel 17:45-47 NIV)

He used a slingshot, but his faith was not in his weapons.  He doesn’t say, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you with a slingshot.”  He says, “but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

David did not go into battle boasting and bragging about his skills and abilities.  He did not go against Goliath thinking, like Muhammad Ali that he was the greatest.  He brought God into his battles.  He trusted God to help him fight and to give him the deliverance.  That is the key.

4) Be angry

As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it.

Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (I Samuel 17:26 NIV)

David sees sin in the world.  He sees people blaspheming God.  He sees people defying God.  He sees people defying God’s people on earth and he is bothered about it.  He is angry.  He does not sit back and say, “That’s just the way things are.”  He is angry and he wants to do something about it.  This anger caused him to take action.  It caused him to step forward.  What causes you to get angry.  Are you ever angry over God not being glorified in the world and in the church?

5) Don’t fear

Don’t fear your Goliath.  The soldiers were all terrified of Goliath, but David was the only one who did not seem to be afraid of him.  He was motivated by faith and not fear.  Goliath was intimidating but he was not God.  He was just a man.

If David was afraid of Goliath, he would never have fought him.  David runs toward the battle line.  He did not just fight him; he ran towards him.  He faced his challenges head on.  He did not let fear rule him.  One of the messages of this chapter is that size does not matter.  Outward appearances do not matter.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves

6) Ignore criticism

Don’t listen to negative voices.  Sometimes we have negative voices in our head.  We hear all kinds of negative voices.  We may feel that God is calling us to do something, but we will get nothing but criticism and discouragement from people.  That is what happened to David. When he told people what he wanted to do, other people dismissed him, ignored him and laughed at him.  Do people ever do that to you?

What were the negative voices that David heard?  He heard negative voices from his family.  He heard negative voices from his king.  He heard negative voices from his enemy Goliath.  In fact, in this chapter, there were no positive voices, except one.  No one was encouraging David to fight Goliath.  No one could tell he that he could do it but, in the end, Saul finally said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.” (I Samuel 17:37)

What did his oldest brother say?  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? 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. (I Samuel 17:28 NIV)

Typical older brother syndrome.  David was simply doing what his dad told him to do.  He was an obedient son.  What was his older brother’s response?  Judgmental.  Critical.  Angry.  Feelings of superiority.  Questioning David’s motives for being there in the first place.  He was probably also a little jealous that the Prophet Samuel anointed David and not him to be king.

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him” (I Samuel 17:32 NIV).  What did the king say?  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.” (I Samuel 17:33 NIV)

He said, “You can’t do it.  You can’t stand toe-to-toe against him. He is a professional martial artist.  He is an expert at hand-to-hand combat.  He is trained fighter.  He is a veteran.  You are a shepherd.  He is a soldier.  He has years of experience.  He is undefeated.  No one has beaten him before, and he is massive.  He towers over everyone.”

What did Goliath say to him?  He despised him.  He mocked him.  He threatened him and he cursed him.

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. 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!” (I Samuel 17:41-44 NIV)

7) Use the right weapons

Every battle involves some weapons.  If you use the wrong weapons, you will not be successful.  You will not be effective.

Word of faith people say that we need to talk to our giants.  David talked to Goliath, but it was not words that took him out.  It was a rock.

David does not try to fight Goliath in Saul’s armor.  He doesn’t take a sword.  He uses a slingshot.  We think of it as a child’s toy but it was an actual weapon.  He does not use a sword because he did not own one and was not an expert in the sword but he was good with the slingshot, so he uses what he knows, is comfortable with and is good at.  He does not use someone else’s weapons.

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. (I Samuel 17:40 NIV)

Some think this was a lack of faith.  Why did he take five smooth stones?  Why didn’t he just take one stone with him?  This is a ridiculous question.  He did it to be properly prepared for battle.  No one goes into battle with one bullet in his gun, unless you are Barnie Fife (as someone in my class pointed out).  No archer goes out with one arrow in his quiver.  David went out prepared for battle and so should we.  Our battles are not physical but spiritual (Ephesians 6:12).

[1] https://www.holylandsite.com/valley-of-elah

[2] https://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/the-big-gath-dig-goliath-s-hometown/

[3] Faithlite Study Bible on I Samuel 17:17.

[4] This is the view of Matt Chandler (https://vimeo.com/34692625).  Others have followed this approach.

[5] https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/upwords/take-goliath-down-11630947.html

[6] Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants, p. 2-3.

[7] https://cedarministry.org/how-to-kill-your-goliath/

 

 

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