Tag Archives: 1 Samuel 17

Three practices to overcome fear – Characters: David & Goliath, Part 5

29 Nov
Image result for facing your giants

In this series of posts about the story of David and Goliath, we have seen the Israelite army running in fear from the intimidating giant, Goliath. To best understand the question I am going to ask next, I encourage you to go back and read at least the previous post, if not all four, staring here. The reason is that the story of David and Goliath is almost always described as an underdog story, and I’ve been saying all along that it is not that at all. In Part 4, I tried to show from a perspective of human anatomy, medical research, and studies into ancient warfare, it seems that this was anything but an underdog story. David, though he was much smaller, younger, far less experienced, and with no armor, actually had some important advantages over Goliath. Was it speed? No. Well, then it had to be that David had God on his side, right? The obvious answer to that is Yes, but the text gives us no indication that God intervened and performed a miracle on David’s behalf. Yes, in the previous chapter, 1 Samuel 16, we read that God’s Spirit had empowered David, but in the story of David and Goliath, if you read David’s action closely, there is no mention of God guiding him, strengthening, or helping him in any way. So you might ask, “But doesn’t this remove God’s involvement from the story?”  Not at all.  David still shows amazing trust in God.  Look at what he says in 1 Samuel 17, verses 45-47.

Do you see how David’s trust is rooted solidly in God’s presence and provision? In the middle of what appears to be insurmountable and impossible, David reminds us that we have a God of the possible.  David clearly believes this, and acts accordingly! David’s trust in God enables him to see the possibilities that no one else could see, and to have courage to step forward and act when everyone else was crippled by their fear.

The rest is history. 

David uses his sling, and in one shot drills Goliath in the forehead, the fast-moving heavy stone penetrating Goliath’s forehead, either killing him instantly or knocking him unconscious.  Goliath falls forward and his body crashes to the ground. David runs to him, grabs Goliath’s sword and cuts Goliath’s head off.  The Philistine army freaks out and retreats, and the army of Israel pursues them, slaughtering many.  It is an astounding victory.

The story of David and Goliath is not an underdog story, but a story of blindness.  Not only was Goliath likely suffering from poor eyesight, but he was certainly blinded by his pride and arrogance.  He probably never lost a hand-to-hand battle.  And he assumed he would just keep winning.  Israel and King Saul were blinded too, by their fear.  They couldn’t see anything other than loss and devastation. 

One person in the story can see.  David, trusting in God, is the only one able to see the truth. 

How can we have David’s clear-eyed trust in the midst of our seemingly impossible situations?  It is amazing to me that David, just a young man, has such a trust in God.  Was his confidence a youthful naiveté?  We don’t know.  But there it is.  And it was real, as it can be for us.  We can have God’s vision of the seemingly impossible situations in our lives.  We can see his truth in the midst of fear.   

So let me ask, how do we develop this trust?  What do you actually do to take that step of faith in God?

Remember how David was a poet?  We are blessed to have many of his poetic writings that we can still read today.  In the Bible, there is a collection of poetry called Psalms, and of the 150 included there, 73 are attributed to David.  Some even mention the events of his life.  While none of his psalms mention his battle with Goliath, Psalm 27 clearly relates.  I encourage you to pause reading this blog post and read Psalm 27.

What we see in David’s bold confrontation of Goliath is one who reflects, remembers and responds in the face of fear.  He reflects on who God is.  God is victor, God is stronger, and God is faithful.  In Psalm 27:4 David says that the one thing he seeks is to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.  He spent lots of time as a shepherd with sheep, but clearly he also spend lots of time reflecting on God.  For example in verse 8, he says, “seek his face!”  David is a wonderful example to us of how important it is to spend time seeking God.  I’ve been trying to daily set a timer for 10 minutes and just quietly think about God.  In this I seek to make a habit of the practice of reflection. In Psalm 46, not attributed to David, we read in verse 10, “Be still and know that I am God.” That is my goal in my quiet reflection, to train my mind to go back, over and over again, to the truth that I can be still knowing that God is who he says he is, even in the face of what seems to be impossible. Worship music can be very helpful for this. So is gathering with God’s people.  This is why participation in gathered worship, prayer meeting, small groups, and such, is so vital.  Of course so is spending time meditating on God’s word, reading it, studying it, memorizing it, seeking to apply it to our lives.  What will it look like for you to open up more time for reflection on who God is?

Next David remembers what God has done in the past, giving him victory over the lion and the bear.  Remember how God has shown his faithfulness to you.  There is something incredibly empowering when we remember God’s provision in the past.  The work of reflection and remembering is what opens our eyes when they have been blinded by fear.

Bolstered and strengthened by this reflecting and remembering, David steps forward to respond.  This teaches us that can face our fears. We need not be blinded into inaction.  Reflection on the truth about God, and remembering his faithfulness removes the blinder of fear and helps us respond by courageously stepping forward in obedience to him.

What fear do you have in your life?  Is your response more like Saul or more like David? Take the time to reflect on who God is, to remember what he has done in your life, and what he has done in history, then step forward to face your fear.

Why this is not an underdog story – Characters: David & Goliath, Part 4

28 Nov
Image result for david and goliath

I’ve been saying all along in this series of posts looking at the story of David and Goliath that this is not an underdog story. I didn’t come up with that idea on my own. I’m indebted to the work of Malcolm Gladwell in his book David & Goliath. Gladwell notes that scholars who have researched ancient warfare, and in particular this episode of ancient warfare, tell us that, as we read in 1st Samuel 17, verse 40, when David pulls out his sling and stone, every soldier on both armies’ battle lines watching would know that, if David was any good with the sling, this battle was over before it began.

Why? David had a distinct advantage as a slinger.  Let me give you an analogy.

In the film, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, there is a scene when Indy is a different country, running through a crowded market, chasing after a bad guy. Suddenly a man with swords steps out of the crowd and confronts Indy, blocking his way. The man menacingly swings the sword, displaying his expertise.  Indy is forced to stop short, as the bad guy is getting away.  Indy has no sword to fight back.  You think Indy has lost, not only the bad guy, but maybe his life, because this guy with swords looks fearsome and threatening.  What does Indy do?  Run away?  Nope.  He pulls out his revolver, and shoots the guy.  Game over.  Indy wins, and he is able to keep chasing the bad guy.  The lesson?  Guns beat swords. 

That is David with a sling.  He’s got a far superior weapon.  And he was good with it.  We already heard how he killed a lion and a bear with it.  Ancient slingers would put golf ball-sized stones in their slings, whipping them around super-fast, and launch them with deadly accuracy.  Slingers were the artillery of ancient warfare, and if an army could keep safely apart from opposing infantry, the slingers could just launch volley after volley of stones at the enemy. They were devastating.  More so than archers.  As David pulls out his sling and stones, all the soldiers on both sides knew what coming. 

Except Goliath.  Which is weird, right?  Goliath was a battle-hardened soldier.  He should know about the power of sling.  He should be running away, right?  Instead, we read in verse 41 that Goliath kept coming closer to David.  He kept making it easier for David to hit him.  What is going on?  Why would Goliath make such an obvious mistake? 

Maybe he felt he could quickly rush David and overtake him before David could get the sling and stone out?  Maybe.  Maybe he was arrogant.  Scholars believe there is a totally different reason. 

They believe Goliath could not see David well.  He had to get closer to David because he couldn’t see David well.  Could not see? 

Let me explain.  Modern science has studied people in our day and age who grow abnormally large.  I once went to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, and they had a giant lady walked out.  She was super tall.  It was kind of eerie, because she seemed not all that thrilled about being on display.  There is a genetic condition called acromegaly in which humans do not stop growing.  One particular symptom of acromegaly is poor eyesight.

We know all about Goliath’s huge size.  It is possible he had acromegaly and could not see. 

Look at verse 43.  Clearly Goliath is arrogant, convinced he will win.  He sees that David is small.  But notice he says that David comes at him with sticks.  Plural.  Not one stick, but sticks.  In verse 40 we are told that David had a staff, but only one staff.  Goliath, very possibly, scholars tell us, had bad eyesight.  Maybe double-vision.  He thinks David is going to try to defeat him with sticks, which Goliath rightly thinks is ridiculous.  If that’s all David had, Goliath would almost certainly win. 

Here’s the thing: Goliath doesn’t seem to see the sling. Therefore Goliath, though he was a huge man armed to the teeth, he was in an extremely vulnerable position against David.  This is not an underdog story.

Check back in tomorrow to Part 5, and we’ll see the conclusion to the story and how it might matter to us.

Is your view of life upside-down? – Characters: David & Goliath, Part 3

27 Nov
Photo by Mathilda Khoo on Unsplash

Have you ever been in a situation where you were convinced you were right, but ultimately found out you were wrong? It can be shocking when that happens. We tend to go about life trusting our intuition, our viewpoint, and when we are believing something we think is so obvious, only to discover that we are wrong, it rattles us. One way this can happen is when we limit our view, though we have no idea that our view is limited. I’ve had this happen to me too many times to count. It could be a new piece of knowledge, a new theory, or something about which I was just simply wrong. As we continue the story of David versus Goliath, we’re going to see how some people in the story were completely wrong in their way of looking at the world, but they had no clue.

Yesterday we saw that David was aghast that the enemy Philistine giant Goliath was defying the armies of God, and no one was standing up to him. Teenage David’s outburst got him nowhere with his older brothers. So in 1 Samuel 17, verse 30 we learn that David brings up the matter to other people standing nearby.  He is persistent.  And eventually, in verse 31, other people report this to King Saul.  For the first time in 40 days, Saul gets a report that someone is willing to fight Goliath.  Of course Saul calls for this person to be brought before him, mostly likely because this will get Saul off the hook for having fight. 

Look at what David says to Saul in verse 32.  It is straight up bold: “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”  What?  A 16 year old shepherd poet versus a battle-hardened trained, armored giant?  It’s ridiculous.

And that’s exactly how Saul responds in verse 33.  “Come on, David.  You’re just a boy.”  Saul’s first line in that response shows you where his heart and mind is at, and perhaps why not only he, but the whole army is gripped in fear.  Saul leads with, “You are not able to go out and fight against this Philistine.”  That shows you how small, how limited is Saul’s vision, how weak is his trust in God in the midst of what appears to be an impossible situation.  Saul limits himself to a human evaluation of the situation.  God is nowhere to be found in Saul’s vision. 

David, though?  Totally different viewpoint.

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, 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. 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. 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.”

How about that?  “The Lord will deliver me!”  In the midst of crippling fear from what looks like insurmountable odds, David is laser-focused on God, and he alone is able to view the situation with truth.

Saul’s human response in verses 38-39, however, is to have David put on the king’s armor before he faces Goliath.  Saul is viewing the solution within his limited view.  The Israelite army also seems to be putting their faith in human means, as they see no way to overcome Goliath, and yet they were the people of God with a super clear history of God’s intervention in their lives.  Fascinating, isn’t it?  They had the wonderful stories of God’s amazing miraculous work.  They could even remember Samson’s wild victories over Philistia, who likely was a judge in Israel only decades before. But they don’t remember any of that.  They each look at their size, their armor, their weapons, and they conclude they are no match for Goliath. 

And when one man does step forward with no armor, Saul, still thinking humanly, even though his vision is that David is no match for Goliath, believes maybe David will have a little more chance wearing armor.

David obediently tries on the armor, but knows immediately it will be counterproductive, slow him down, get in the way, and he says, “This can’t work,” takes off the armor, and heads out to face Goliath.

My guess is that for the most part, you have been tracking with this story, and so far it has sounded pretty much familiar to what you remembered.  The classic underdog story.  As David walks from the Israelite battle line, heading in Goliath’s direction, I would like to suggest, however, that this is not an underdog story at all. 

You might be thinking, “Well, of course, Joel.  David has God on his side, and therefore he is not really an underdog.”  True.  I agree with that.  But that’s not what I’m getting at.  We will certainly be talking about God’s involvement in this story, but there is something else important going on here. And we’ll reveal that in the next post in this series.

Distraction from the main thing – Characters: David & Goliath, Part 2

26 Nov
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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!

Do you have crippling fear? – Characters: David & Goliath, Part 1

24 Nov

What seemingly impossible situations are you facing?  What is causing you fear?  What keeps you up at night?  What gives you an upset stomach?  Fear is a powerful force that affects so many of us.  Fear of losing our health.  Fear of losing control.  Fear of poverty.  Fear of death.

In our Characters series, we come to a famous story of David who was confronted by a soldier named Goliath who drove fear into the hearts of the whole Israelite army. Their story is found in 1 Samuel chapter 17.  We actually met David last week.  Very briefly.  Last week we studied the amazing story of David’s great-grandmother, Ruth

Ruth lived in the period of the nation of Israel when judges ruled the land of Israel.  The very last judge was a man named Samuel, who was also a great prophet.  During his years he led Israel in victory over the Philistines, and he eventually anointed the first king of Israel, a man named Saul.  As king, Saul had some victories, but he also disobeyed God, and so in 1 Samuel chapter 16, we read that God instructs Samuel to anoint a new king to take over after Saul.

In nearly every nation in the history of the world that has a monarchy, they almost always use the same system for picking the next king or queen.  Do you know what it is called?  Primogeniture. 

My wife, Michelle, and I have been watching The Crown on Netflix, all about the life of Queen Elizabeth of England, and in one episode they show a flashback when Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret are girls, and they are discussing how Elizabeth will someday take over for her father.  They both agree that with Elizabeth’s personality which was more quiet and reserved and Margaret being more the people person, Margaret, the younger sister, should be queen.  So Margaret goes to an official to make this request thinking it is for the best.  The official has to break the news that primogeniture is the way it is, and Elizabeth will be queen.  Margaret is crushed.

Primogeniture means simply that the first born child takes over as the next monarch. 

Interestingly God instructs Samuel not to follow primogeniture.  Saul’s son Jonathan would not be the next king.  In fact, no one from Saul’s family would be king.  Instead God directs Samuel to go to the town of Bethlehem to the house of Jesse, whose grandmother was a Moabite (a non-Israelite) lady named Ruth, and Samuel anoints not the oldest of Jesse’s sons, but the youngest, a shepherd poet named David.  Then we read that the Spirit of the Lord came on David in power.  1 Samuel 16 concludes with David traveling to Saul’s house from time to time to play the harp for Saul, because Saul was regularly afflicted with what seemed to be a combination of spiritual and psychological oppression, and David’s music would calm him.  That brings us to 1 Samuel 17, and the famous story of David and a man, named Goliath.

How do we normally understand the story of David and Goliath?  It is perhaps the classic underdog story, right?  In sports, in war, in a political election, and in just about any arena where one weaker, smaller person or group is pitted against an opponent that seems bigger, wealthier, more experienced, or more famous, we say that it is David vs. Goliath situation.  A famous example is from a few years ago when the Eagles were considered underdogs in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. 

But what we’re going to find is that the original David vs. Goliath story is almost certainly not an underdog story. 

1st Samuel 17, verses 1-3 tells us that two armies, the Philistines and Israel, are facing each other from opposing hillsides.  These two nations had been at war with one another for many years.  But this particular battle is unique. Why? Keep reading…

The Philistines have a secret weapon.  Well, a man.  A giant of a man.  Goliath.  And he is decked out in armor, armed with a javelin, and we later learn he also has a sword. He also has a shield bearer going ahead of him.  In other words, Goliath is an imposing soldier.  Intimidating.  Fearsome. 

Furthermore, as we keep reading, we learn that the Philistines use Goliath in a unique method of ancient warfare.  In verses 8-11, we learn that each side is to send out a single champion soldier to represent their army.  Whichever soldier wins the one-on-one fight, they will have won the battle for their whole army.  It is, in a way, a good idea to avoid loss of life.  But King Saul of Israel and his army are terrified.  Who wouldn’t be, right?  Goliath was a freak of nature!  Who would want to go fight him?

Here’s what is sometimes missed in the story: Israel had a giant too.  It’s true.  Israel had a tall man.  He wasn’t as tall as Goliath, but they had a man who we are told was a head taller than all the rest.  You know who it was?  King Saul.  In 1 Samuel 9:2, we read that Saul was impressive too, without equal among all Israel, as he was a head taller than the others.  He should have been the one to go fight Goliath.  But he didn’t.  No one from Israel’s army would fight.  They were all terrified. 

Fear is crippling, isn’t it?  Fear can cause you to forget truth.  Fear can cause you to fixate on disaster.  Think about that in your own life.  Have you ever succumbed to fear, to assuming the worst of things?  Assuming that things are terrible and awful and insurmountable, as if there is no hope?  I’ve been there.  If I’m driving down the road, for example, and I hear what seems to be a new noise coming from the direction of the engine of the car, my mind can go lightning fast down a negative path thinking, “Oh man…our car is dying and it is going to cost a ton to fix and it is going to ruin us financially.”  Because I heard one little new noise?  Fear can do that, if we let it.  Hear that last bit of the sentence?  If we let it. How have you let fear cripple you?

Saul and Israel allowed Goliath to fill their hearts with fear.  Jump down to verse 16, and we read that this was going on for forty days.  Forty days!  Goliath would come out twice a day, challenging any Israelite soldier to fight him.  That’s forty days of fear.  Forty days of Saul and Israel crippled by their fear.  Maybe you’ve been there.  If we allow it, fear can linger, and it can ruin our lives.  We can’t sleep good.  We can’t eat.  We can be very difficult to be around.  Our friends and family try to help us out, but fear can get a stranglehold on us and lock down our lives.  Anyone know what I mean?  We know it is no way to live.  We hate the struggle, but we can get so stuck that we have no idea what to do.  That seems to have been happening to Saul and his army.

As we continue the story, we’re going to learn an amazing response to fear.