Have you ever had this happen: you’re in the office drafting an email about an rather tricky interpersonal relationship in your company, and you have a flash of brilliance. You’re about to solve the problem. As you’re typing your thoughts, the phone rings. You answer it, and the call lasts for a few minutes. That’s not very long, but long enough to divert your attention. You hang up the phone, turn your eyes back to the email, remember that you were on to something good, but you have no recollection of that thought. It’s gone. The phone call distracted you.
Distraction is rampant in our world. In our examination of David and Goliath, we’re going to see how distraction rears its ugly head. Watch David, though, and perhaps we might learn a thing or two about how to deal with distraction in the middle of important or tense situations.
In Part 1, we set the stage for our famous story. David vs. Goliath. But so far we’ve only met Goliath, this hulk of a man who struck fear in the hearts and minds of the armies of Israel. Now, as we continue the story as told in 1st Samuel, chapter 17, verse 12-24, the scene shifts from the battlefront back to the town of Bethlehem, which is where David’s family lives.
We learn that David’s father, Jesse, is well-advanced in years, and David’s three oldest brothers were serving in the army. Jesse gives David some food to take to his brothers who were in the army with Saul. David takes the food from Bethlehem to the battle ground, and he gives the food to the keeper of supplies.
Then David runs to the battle lines and greets his brothers. At the same time, Goliath steps out from the Philistine side and calls for an Israelite to fight him, like Goliath has been doing each day, morning and evening, for 40 days. As they have done every one of those 40 days, the army of Israel runs from Goliath in great fear.
There is David watching all this. We think David is in the vicinity of 16 years old at this time. I’m guessing he is wide-eyed, as this situation plays out in front of him. We don’t know if this was all new for David. Maybe he had observed the army before, but maybe this was his first time with his brothers and the army.
In verses 25-27 it seems that, though Goliath had been defying the army of Israel for 40 days, this was the first that David is learning about it. Look at what David says in verse 26:
“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
Hear that? From David’s mouth, a beacon of trust in God in the middle of what had been nothing but fear for 40 days. David is incredulous that anyone, even a massive giant like Goliath, has been allowed to defy God. It is a glimmer of righteous anger, of a new day.
Before we get too excited about David, though, we need to remember that David’s three oldest brothers are right there too. Imagine how they felt when their little teenager brother starts in with his righteous anger! David’s questions, whether he meant it this way or not, are essentially confronting his brothers too for not stepping forward to fight Goliath! And if you have siblings, you know how that could go over. You think his oldest brother, Eliab, is going to look at David and say, “Thank you, little brother. Thank you for asking those hard questions. Thank you for pointing out our weakness and our failings. I needed that. I will go fight Goliath.” Ha!
Not a chance. Here’s what Eliab says in verse 28:
“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.”
Oh man, Eliab is hot. It is entirely possible that he is not just making stuff up to get at David because he was embarrassed that his little brother called him out. It could be that Eliab had watched David for years and knew this was a tendency in David. Maybe David was nosy, maybe he was annoying to his older brothers. We don’t know. It could be that Eliab is just angry that David confronted him, and so he is playing it off by accusing David of being irresponsible with the sheep, and just coming to the battle to be entertained. Eliab has a point. David could have left the food with the keeper of supplies and returned to Bethlehem. But he didn’t. He ran to the battle lines. His brothers know this. They probably saw David do this kind of thing back in Bethlehem many times. This is such normal sibling drama.
How will David respond? Look at verse 29. At first he responds exactly like you would expect in a sibling fight: “Now what have I done?” That line is loaded with history. You only say that if you’ve been confronted many times before. So this was clearly a repeat issue between David and his brothers. Then he says, “Can’t I even speak?” Also a loaded statement, right? My guess is that David had opened his mouth in front of his brothers many times, and they didn’t appreciate it. We are on the brink of a full-blown fight between brothers, which is kinda crazy when you consider that the setting is a battle between two armies, and Goliath is out there in the middle calling for someone to fight him. But just as quickly as the fight between David and Eliab flares up, it is done, because David makes a very interesting choice at this point.
Look at verse 30. David turns away. It seems he knows nothing productive will happen in a spat with Eliab, so he shuts it down and moves on. Wise move. Siblings, are you paying attention to David? Most sibling fights are totally unproductive and unnecessary. So David chooses to disengage, to turn away. But David is far from done. He could just take Eliab’s words as a verbal spanking and return to Bethlehem in frustration. Instead, he moves away from the distraction of his brothers because there is a much more important matter at hand: the defiant enemy giant, Goliath. And David is incredulous that no one is stepping up.
In the next post, David faces even more distraction!