According to our passage, Goliath was three metres tall. However, some ancient manuscripts say about 2 metres. Either way, Goliath was a formidable opponent (when the average height was about 1.6m. He was big and strong enough to wear armour weighing 58kg and he struck fear into all who saw him. And he was a Philistine warrior. At the time, the armies of Israel and Philistia were lined up facing each other on two hills on opposites sides of a valley. Every day, Goliath strode out and defied the Israelite army, shouting taunts at them and challenging them to find someone who would engage in one-to-one combat with him. If the Israelite soldier won, the Philistines would become their subjects and vice versa.
Every time Goliath issued his challenge, the Israelites were terrified. Every day they fled from him in great fear. Nobody would fight this giant of a man. For forty days they lined up facing each other. Twice a day, morning and evening, Goliath issued his challenge and twice a day the Israelites ran in fear. Can you imagine the two armies going through this same ritual for 40 days? In all that time, no one was willing to fight him despite the king offering to give great wealth to the man who killed him, plus his daughter in marriage plus exempting his family from taxes.
Then, one day, a young man turned up, sent by his father to see how his brothers were – a shepherd.
Read 1 Samuel 17:20-50.
In that whole army there was not one person willing to fight Goliath. And yet David was willing. What made David different? There was something fundamentally different about David. What was it?
Consider what David faced. He faced an impossible situation. Goliath was enormous. He was a trained and experienced warrior. David was none of those things. Nothing had changed. It wasn’t any easier for David than it would have been for anyone else. In fact, it was harder. They were soldiers. He wasn’t. He was at a disadvantage. The situation was – to all intents and purposes – utterly impossible. He could not defeat Goliath.
He faced a climate of fear. The army fled whimpering each day. Fear inspires fear. Fear had spread like a contagion throughout the Israelite army. Think how, on an earlier occasion, the fear of the spies had spread throughout the whole Israelite nation and they refused to enter the Promised Land. How much do we miss out on because of fear? David was surrounded by fear and yet he was not afraid.
He faced criticism. His brother ripped into him, questioning his motives and his character and his ability. “All you are capable of is looking after a few sheep, and you are not even doing that properly. Who is looking after them now?”
He faced doubts – from the highest quarter. The king said, “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.”
He faced the impossible; he faced fear; he faced criticism and he faced doubts (We will come to the fifth one soon) and yet David went out to face Goliath. How come? What made him different? Think about this for a moment: if you were in this story, would you be one of the soldiers or would you be David?
What was the difference? Notice how often David talked of God.
v.26 – “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine who defies the armies of the living God?”
The living God. As far as David was concerned, God was alive and active. He wasn’t dead. He wasn’t impotent (powerless). He was alive and able.
And who was Goliath in comparison? Who could defy God? Goliath might have been a giant but even he was arrogant and foolish if he thought he could defy God.
Actually, David didn’t refer to the living God in this sentence. He referred to “the army of the living God”. Yes, God is infinitely more powerful than tiny little Goliath but Goliath should not even have been a match for the Israelite army. This army was the army of the living God. Nothing was impossible for them. Well, how come, none of the army had remembered that? In this story, nobody refers to God except David. The army of the living God had forgotten the living God. Any one of those soldiers could have done what David did. There was nothing special about David. He was the least likely. Any one of them could have done it and could have been remembered for millennia.
When King Saul said that David could not do it, David told of his past experiences of God. Lions and bears had attacked the flock he was guarding but he had fought them off. He had? No. He said (v.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.” It was God who had enabled him to fight off lions and bears, and that past experience of God gave him confidence that God would also rescue him from the hand of Goliath.”
But then King Saul introduced another temptation by offering him his armour. David’s confidence was in God but Saul tempted him to put his confidence in physical armour instead. Is God not enough? Did David have to help God out?
In fact, he would be worse off trusting in the armour. It was to heavy and too big for him. He wasn’t used to wearing armour. He had a choice. He could trust in God or he could trust in the armour. There is an interesting contrast here: he was used to trusting in God. He had previous experience of God. He trusted in God every day. He was not used to trusting in armour.
In contrast, the army was used to trusting in armour and not used to trusting in God – and where had that got them?
What about you? Is your default position to trust in God or to trust in other things – your own abilities, money in the bank, human knowledge and skill? Where is our security? Could we say, “I have no money in the bank but I trust God to provide for me”? Are we trusting God every day or do we have security systems all around us so that, really, we don’t need God?
David stripped of the armour and went out unprotected and with only five small stones and a sling. Was he unprotected? No, he was absolutely fully protected. God is sufficient. Absolutely fully protected.
Standing in front of Goliath, and taunted by him, David replied, “You come at 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 deliver you into my hands and I will strike you down and cut off your head.”
Again, the contrast is between trusting in God and trusting in the weapons of war. David was safer with God than Goliath was with all his size and strength and experience and equipment.
What was the difference between David and the soldiers of the Israelite army? What they were trusting in. The soldiers trusted in their own strength and they knew it was utterly inadequate. David trusted in God and he knew He was utterly adequate – more than sufficient. And so it proved.
So far, I have not used the word “faith” but that is what David demonstrated. Faith isn’t mentioned in that chapter but that is what the story is about. What is the significance of faith for us? Life for David was very different from life for the soldiers in the army and it was faith that made the difference. The soldiers experienced fear and failure. David experienced peace and victory. And the only difference was that he had faith in God where they didn’t.
How much difference might there be in our lives if we were to grow in faith? Could we also move from fear to peace? If we feel that we are not achieving anything significant for God, might that be different if our faith was stronger? Most people trust in their own abilities and their savings and various professionals and their insurance. How different might life be if we trusted in God?
When we talk about faith, what Bible passages come to mind?
Hebrews 11 is all about faith and some of the heroes who served God well because they lived by faith. You might like to re-read that chapter. Those men and women of faith are an inspiration.
V.1 defines faith. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Our hope is not just wishful thinking. Our hope is what we look forward to because of God’s promises. I don’t think I am distorting scripture if I say faith is confidence in God’s promises and assurance about what we do not see. God has spoken. We do not yet see all that He has promised but faith is being confident nevertheless. God has spoken. I believe Him even though I do not yet see the fulfilment. Saul’s armour was visible; God’s protection is not but David was confident in that invisible protection.
We are not told specifically, but God must have spoken to David. David wasn’t just being reckless on the basis of his own ideas. God must have said, “You fight this giant. I will give you victory just as I have in the past.” David could not yet see the victory. David could not see God’s protection. Goliath still stood there taunting the army. But David had absolute confidence in God’s promise.
There are many definitions of faith (and you can see some of them in the resources on the website) but mine is: Believing what God says and acting accordingly. On the basis of belief, David faced Goliath.
A few verses later, Hebrews 11:6 makes a very challenging statement…
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Faith is absolutely fundamental to being a Christian. Faith is central and essential. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Earlier, did you decide that you identified with David or with the soldiers? Without faith it is impossible to please God. Do I believe God, do I believe God’s word, so firmly that I am acting on the basis of it? Am I stepping out to fight the Goliaths?
In the Bible, the words “faith”, “belief” and “trust” are all closely linked. Faith is trust. I trust God. I act on the basis of what He has said. God has said that if I focus on His Kingdom and His righteousness, He will supply all my needs, so that is my focus. I am all about His Kingdom, and I trust Him to provide for me. God says He answers prayer, so I pray heaps. Is that where we are at? I trust God and therefore I…
Faith is challenging but think about the potential as well. Why not be the Davids in this world? The church of the living God, I fear, is very like the army of the living God. There is very little faith in the living God. And yet God can do today what He did in David’s day. There can be equally astounding miracles. Let’s be the Davids. Let’s truly believe in the living God. Think what could be.
Jesus said, “Everything is possible for the person who believes” (Mark 9:23). Isn’t that amazing? Everything is possible for the person who believes. Do you believe that?
We live in an age that pooh-poohs such ideas and rationalises and explains everything away. People will say that is ridiculous. We cannot take that literally. Do you believe Jesus? Do you believe that everything is possible for the person who believes? Do you believe that the person with faith only the size of a mustard seed could tell a mountain to move? Jesus said that. Do we believe Jesus?
Do you want to be a faith-filled David rather than a faithless soldier? This term we will be looking at how faith works and how we can grow in faith. If you want to grow, let’s start by praying for increased faith. “Lord, give me greater faith. Help me to know You better and to trust You more.”