GOD’S ANOINTED: The Battle of Champions


1 Samuel 17

The story of David and Goliath is one of the most famous stories in the entire Bible.  To many, it is a rousing example of how an underdog can triumph over impossible odds to achieve victory.  Goliath, who was a real person, has come to represent any kind of insurmountable obstacle.   David has come to represent a person who, when mustering his courage and determination, and by a sheer act of his will, is able to defy all expectations.  But in light of what David told Goliath, that isn’t the lesson of this story at all—

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.  This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.”  (1 Samuel 17:45, 46a)

This story is simply a dramatic example of what happens when one person is obedient to God.  In this case, the one person was David, and his obedience saved an entire nation.  This war between the Philistines and Israel provided David with an opportunity to show Saul and all of Israel, and the Philistines as well, what can be accomplished when one acts in faith, boldly trusting in the omnipotence of Jehovah.

There is definitely a pattern to the history of Israel’s first two kings.  Right after Samuel anointed Saul, Saul defeated Nahash and the Ammonites (chapters 10 and 11).  Samuel had just anointed David, and now David will defeat the Philistines (chapters 16 and 17).

It seems clear that some time must have elapsed between the events of chapters 16 and 17.  Some scholars believe several years may have passed, given the fact that Saul did not seem to recognize whose son David was at the end of chapter 17 whereas Saul knew all about David in chapter 16.

Scottish preacher and hymn writer Walter Smith wrote,

Faith alone is the master key to the straight gate and narrow road.

David learned to use this “master key” as a young man when he tended his father’s sheep in the rough Palestinian wilderness.  It was there, in the deserts and mountains, away from everybody, that his character was forged.  Those who achieve very public victories for God are those who have first achieved victory in the lowest spheres of life and in the hidden corners of the heart.

Goliath was not only a giant; he serves as an excellent type of the god of this world, who defies the Lord and the Lord’s people, frustrating them as they seek to serve Him.  Notice what Goliath says to the army of Israel—

Choose a man and have him come down to me. (verse 8b)

Israel could not choose a man to fight this arrogant Philistine warrior; that was God’s job; the man who would fight for Israel would have to be God’s choice and he would have to be the “man after God’s own heart,” a true type of the Son of God who came to destroy the works of the Devil and fight for the soul of man.  The work of David and the work of Christ bear some remarkable similarities, which we will examine.

1.  Obedient Son, verses 17—22

Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah [d] of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp.  (verse 17)

Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry.  (verse 20)

Not only does David represent the believer, he also represents Christ.  Jesse’s command to David involved three things:

  • Take supplies to David’s brothers;
  • Find out how they were doing;
  • Bring back a token of their warfare.

David fulfilled the first two parts of his father’s wishes when he got to the camp; the last part was fulfilled at the end of the encounter with Goliath.  Jesse was a concerned father, indicated by the urgency of the command, “hurry to their camp.”  What father wouldn’t be worried about his sons in battle?

Like David, our Lord was sent out from His Father.  What did Jesus bring from the Father?  While David brought food and things necessary for their survival, Jesus brought an endless supply of spiritual gifts and blessings from heaven to man, also necessary for his survival in a sinful world.  David did not stop to consider the danger to himself as he ventured close to the lines of battle; Jesus also did not stop to consider the cost of leaving heaven to be obedient to His Father’s will—

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!  (Philippians 2:5—8)

Jesus was obedient and brought God’s grace and mercy to man!  Who could have imagined that a baby born in a manger could change the course of the world?  Only His Father.

2.  Mocked and misjudged by his family, verse 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 desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

Just as Joseph’s older brothers reacted with jealousy to the dreams of their younger brother, and Jesus’ family didn’t understand Him, so David’s older brother completely misjudged him and treated him with the greatest contempt and ignorance.  What Eliab didn’t understand was that David was acting in a totally unselfish manner.  Most people tend to superimpose their character onto others; in assuming David was acting in a conceited manner and with a wicked heart, Eliab was, in reality, revealing his true character!  Eliab could not possibly understand David because Eliab was nothing like David.  Furthermore, Eliab’s attitude was a gratuitous insult to Jesse, their father.

It is not easy for sinful man to understand Jesus Christ and what He did for us; that is only possible when the Holy Spirit works in the heart.  That’s why so many people fail to appreciate the work and the sufferings of Christ; they are spiritually blinded by their sin.  David’s treatment at the hands of his brothers is not unlike the treatment Jesus received at the hands of His people and the treatment we may expect from the world if we are true followers of His.  If we are faithful, we will be treated just like the One we are faithful to.

3.  Total determination, verse 32

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

David was absolutely resolute because he knew the he was on the Lord’s side.  In spite of the overwhelming odds against him, this confident statement says it all.  David had a heart for God; David did not volunteer for this mission.  David was being obedient and in that obedience his faith was unleashed.   Yet, Saul remained unimpressed.  Saul had no faith; he could not see what David saw.  David, walking in faith, already knew he had won before he had fought.  Saul saw only what he could see.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  (Hebrews 11:1)

David was beginning to see life the way God saw it.  Jesus was determined in His mission, and if you are moved by the Holy Spirit to do something for God that seems impossible and unprecedented, do not be swayed by what other people think.  Whenever we are excited about the work of God, you can be sure somebody close to you will say something like this—

“You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.”  (verse 33)

God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the so-called wise.  Never let anybody tell you that you can’t do something if that something is what God wants you to do.

4.  Unquestioning confidence, verses 34—37

The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  (verse 37a)

How could David make such an audacious claim:  “The Lord…will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  David had already experienced the miraculous power of God’s deliverance in the past, when nobody else was around.  In the secret place, God manifested His power. It is in the secret place where our faith is tested and perfected.  Who has never noticed how hard it is to be faithful when they’re all alone?

When Saul looked at David, Saul saw one who had courage but whom he thought needed help, so Saul did what anybody else would do:  put armor on the young man. But David’s battle was a spiritual one and physical armor was of no value; it just got in his way.  Goliath was a flesh and blood human being, but he was representative of every spiritual battle every believer will ever fight.  Spiritual battles cannot be fought in the flesh; they must be fought in the spirit and in the Spirit.  Too many Christians suffer defeat because they try to fight in the flesh when they should be fighting in the power of the Holy Spirit.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  (Ephesians 6:12)

5.  David’s invisible armor, verse 45, 47

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.  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.”

David responded to Goliath’s taunts with the weapons of war referenced at the beginning and the end; “swords and spears.”  The army of Israel didn’t have too many weapons, but they were ineffective anyway, because God was all they needed.  “The Lord of hosts,” in the KJV, is a title given to the God of Israel first used in the books of Samuel, but commonly found throughout the Psalms and the books of the prophets, in particular Isaiah.  It refers to God as a warrior; the One who conquers all powers on earth and in the heavenlies.  To David, this Mighty God was the Leader of Israel’s army.  With a General like that, how could they possibly lose?

Goliath could see only a small young man; he could not see the Leader of the army of heaven standing with David.  David said that instead of fighting with the usual weapons of war, all he needed was “the name” of God.  Proverbs 18:10—

The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe

David’s armor was the Name of the Lord, wrapped around him, protecting him.   Psalm 124:8—

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth

David’s help is also the help of every believer; OUR help is in the Name of the Lord.  If He could make the material universe, is there anything He can’t do for you?

Jesus once said this—

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  (Matthew 26:53)

Jesus didn’t have to die on the Cross; but He chose to.  Ray Overholt penned the famous words in his song, Ten Thousand Angels, that puts it all in perspective:

He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone, for you and me.

6.  An undeniable victory, verses 50, 51

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.  David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

This was the beginning of the end for the once-mighty Philistines.  This resounding and decided victory proved for all time that true victory does not lie in the skill of man or the might of an army or the wisdom of science.  God can show His amazing strength in an earthquake or storm or in the sling and stone of a young man.  When Goliath was killed, the Philistine army fell apart and fled, pursued by the army of Israel.

David slew Goliath with his own sword, and Christ will ultimately triumph over Satan with His sword:  His Word of judgment.   Some who are faint-of-heart wonder why David had to chop off Goliath’s head.   From a practical standpoint, this was a very common practice in ancient warfare.  Humiliating one’s enemies by decapitation served in demonstrable fashion how decisive the victory was.   The fact that he brought it to Jerusalem was interesting.  At this time, Jerusalem was not under Israelite control. By putting the mighty Goliath’s head on display, David was putting the Jebusites on notice that their days were numbered.

David’s victory over Goliath was far more than one man triumphing over another.  This seminal battle was really between the representatives of two competing kingdoms:  one a kingdom of darkness and despair, the other the kingdom of light and hope.  Each kingdom would rise or fall in the performance of their champion.  So it was with God’s anointed Son, Jesus Christ.   He came into the kingdom of darkness and despair, and the light of His victory brought hope to all who would claim His victory as their own.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Corinthians 15:5)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  (Romans 8:37)

David’s victory was great, but so may ours be, if we put our complete trust in Christ.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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