Let’s open this one up with a discussion question right off the top.
What do you think of when you think of a hero?
For some of you, this account we’re about to dig into will be familiar, for others, not so much. The passage we’ll be looking at is in 1 Samuel 17. Or if your Bible has titles for various sections, you’ll notice something to the efect of “David and Goliath.”
Let me set the scene for you. At this point, the nation of Israel is still quite young. They are under their first human king. Having gone and rejected God a few chapters back when they asked for a human king to represent them instead of fully relying on God to go ahead of them and advocate for them, now the Israelites find themselves in yet another pickle. This is not the first time they’ve turned their backs on God. You’d think they’d learn by now, but these folks are stubborn. Each time they turned away from God to go their own way there were always consequences. This time was no exception. Now they had the entire army of Philistia ,which was a neighbouring country to Israel at their doorstep. For those of you who like extra context, folks from Philistia were called Philistines. They would often fight Israel over various pieces of land from time to time.
Here’s a good spot to pick up the story.
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. 4 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[b]; 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.[c] His shield bearer went ahead of him. 8 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.”
1 Samuel 17:1-9 NIV
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
At the sight of Goliath, [roughly 9 feet, (or 2.7432 meters tall for those of you who actually like using the metric system for height) according to Google’s measurement translator, all of the Israelite army is freaking out. These were hardened solders. Even King Saul would not go up against Goliath. Who would stand up to the maniac? Israel’s champion would come from an unlikely place indeed.
12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.
1 Samuel 17:12-16
David went back and forth frequently from tending the sheep, to visit his brothers at the front lines. He would have been hearing all of Goliath’s taunting. After putting up with anything that repetitave for days on end, there’s only so much any person can take. David decides to take the matter into his own hands, since none of his older brothers, or the other fighting men would take up the challenge. When his older brothers hear that David is planning on taking Goliath’s challenge, they become angry, because they are about to be shown up by a shepherd.
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” 33 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.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
1 Samuel 17:32-37
David and King Saul didn’t see eye to eye on much in their interactions with each other. There are lots of transferable skills in being a shepherd and a soldier.
40 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. 41 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. 43 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!” 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.” 48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. 50 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. 51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
1 Samuel 17:40-51
The account of David and Goliath can serve as a foreshadowing of an even bigger victory later on. when God would send His only Son, Jesus Christ to be the perfect, sinless sacrifice, so that we might be reconciled to God by accepting Jesus’ free gift of salvation. This is not something we could have ever done on our own because Jesus does God’s will perfectly, and we do things that displease God every day. But because Jesus did the will of God, anyone who accepts His gift of salvation and follows Him, will one day spend eternal life with Him, instead of in hell, separated from God, where we would end up if left on our own. Death will not be the end.
David won that battle because he trusted in the Lord, and not in his own strength. Later on, God would choose him to be king over Israel. David was known throughout the early part of his regin for being a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14). There are similarities between David and Jesus, but unlike Jesus, David was certainly not perfect.
What is the difference between a “good” person and a “bad” person?
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home.
2 Samuel 11:2-4
David slept with a woman who was not his wife AND married to someone else. Later on he has her husband killed. This is not how God wants people to treat each other.
You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery.
Notice how they are in the imperative. It’s not just a suggestion.
David was a man after God’s own heart. He knew the ten commandments, and decided to ignore those two anyway. For any sin that we commit, there are going to be consequences. Some are more noticeable than others. David would later ask for forgiveness (Psalm 50:1-2) God forgave him, but David had a troubled reign as king from then on.
Sin happens to the best of us, no matter how good we seem to think we are. Sin disgusts and grieves God. It separates us from Him. That’s not what God wants.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9
This is not to say that God is some sort of pushover, because He’s not.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
A sometimes difficult truth, followed by a great hope in both of those verses. The question is, what are we going to do with this hope we have? How are we going to tell others so they can get in on it too?