Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 8, Number 51, December 17 to December 23, 2006

Giant Killing Faith

1 Samuel 17:1-58

By Rev. Russell B. Smith

This week, we look at one of the most famous stories in the Bible — David and Goliath. Most of you remember how this story was taught in Sunday school: little David is brave and courageous enough to face down great big Goliath. So you need to be brave and courageous, too! Have courage and you can overcome the Goliaths in your life.

I suggest to you, though, that this passage doesn't have anything to do with you being brave and courageous. This passage doesn't have anything to do with overcoming the difficulties in your life. Indeed, this passage has very little to do with you at all. But it has everything to do with the God who slays the giants who threaten his good order. And that's what we're going to take a look at today.

The storyteller crafts an engaging tale. In the midst of the war with the Philistines, Israel looks across the line and sees a gigantic bear of a man with thick armor and a spear that looks like it could support a roof. The Israelite troops cower in fear as he shouts his challenge. Then the storyteller cuts away — we can imagine the movie scene cutting to the pastoral countryside where young David and his father Jesse are holding down the estate while the older brothers are off at war. Jesse sends David to the front lines to check on the rest of the family. We can imagine that as Jesse watches David disappear between the hills, he has a knowing look on his face; he's remembering the extraordinary encounter with Samuel, the anointing of the young lad David as the new king, and then the strange summons that soon came from Saul to have the David come to court in order to play music to soothe the soul of the king. When the war with the Philistines was renewed, David came home to help with the estate while the older brothers rode off to war. Imagine the sad, knowing look on Jesse's face as David disappears down the road.

And then David arrives and sees Israel melting away before Goliath, and he's confused. And he hotly begins to try to rouse his fellow Israelites. Look at verse 26. David combines a reminder of earthly reward and heavenly challenge. David's outraged because God is being dishonored. The driving concern throughout the chapter is not "how can we overcome this challenge in front of us" but rather "how can we stand by and let God's name be dishonored."

Think about the radical difference in David's thought process — it's not "let's figure out how to overcome this problem." There's not even consideration given to the bigness of the problem. David gives no indication to seeing a giant there at all. What he sees is an animal bent on the destruction of God's people and the dishonoring of God's name. He sees an enemy of truth, goodness, and beauty.

We see ourselves faced with personal trials and personal struggles and we think those are the giants we have to overcome. We wrestle with our short temper, our temptation to sin, our financial struggles, our frustrations and anxieties. We go through the day with the fret and the fume and the worry, huffing and puffing worrying about all the things that threaten to consume or destroy us. And we want someone to overcome our personal giants — or we want to be told how to overcome our personal giants ourselves. And that makes us no different from the Israelites in the army.

But David has a different perspective — there's no thought at all about his own personal struggles. Rather, it's a matter of God's glory. What would it look like if for a time we could take our minds off ourselves and pursue God's glory instead of our own agenda. What would it be like if we stopped worrying about our own prestige or comfort for a while in order to invest in the purposes of worshiping, witnessing, studying, sharing and serving in the name of Jesus Christ.

Notice that immediately after he expresses his heart for God, David's troubles increase. The older brother Eliab, who last week was a curious re-imaging of Saul, becomes a foreshadow of how Saul will treat David. As we move through the rest of I Samuel this summer, we see that David will suffer greatly — that his confrontation with Goliath is nothing compared to his confrontations with Saul. This passage has nothing to do with David overcoming his personal adversity — When you take a stand for God, your troubles will increase. You will be inconvenienced more, you will be disliked more, you will be sneered at and disdained more — and if you have a heart at all, you will hurt more.

Then in verse 33, you'll find people who will urge you to be practical, to use technique and focus your attention on those personal giants. This is what Saul does. He talks with David about how Goliath has been a fighter for years and then he tries to get David to dress and act like a conventional warrior. Look at David's response in verses 34-37. David talks about his own experiences, but look where he attributes the results — the LORD's work. "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."

Now realize that David doesn't go into this blindly — he has experience — he knows what he's getting into. He prepares thoughtfully by picking up good stones — and don't think that is a small gesture. A trained sling-man could hurl a heavy stone at speeds of up to 150 miles an hour. That is to say, David doesn't reject practicality. He rejects artificiality. He cannot dress like Saul because he's not Saul. He brings everything that he is to the Lord for use in this battle, trusting that the Lord will act.

Where has God equipped you? God has uniquely prepared you for service for the kingdom. Not just service for your own glory and comfort, but service for the kingdom. What gifts and skills and talents do you bring? Even in our churches, we have this tendency to try to make everyone cookie-cutter Christians. But God has made us each radically different and equipped us in radically different ways. And we're to depend on him for results of our efforts, not upon our own efforts themselves.

Then as David faces down Goliath — he again reasserts (v 47) that the battle is the Lords and it is the Lord who saves, not the weaponry. He again casts this in terms of God's honor. And then he slays Goliath.

Now here's the thing — David isn't just an example here. He's not just some model for us to emulate. David is the deliverer that God is raising up. He is the ideal king that we've been building toward for the past 16 chapters of 1 Samuel. He's also the shadowy prefigure of Jesus Christ. Where David defeated Goliath for the honor of God, Jesus Christ defeated sin and death for the honor of God. Where David initiated a huge victory for Israel and the rest of the troops followed after him to clean up the battle, so Christ initiated a huge victory for God's people and we're following after building on what he's done. When the later Israelites looked back to this story, they would certainly think of David as an example. But they would also think of David as God's special instrument. In the same way, we look to Christ as our example, but also as God's special instrument.

The essence of understanding giant killing faith is this: that Jesus has already killed the giant. Satan has been bound and no longer has the power to deceive the nations; his power is but a sham and a fraud. He can play his little tricks with our emotions, and he can raise up difficulties to perplex us — he can make us hurt, but his power to destroy us is broken. And we can act in confidence that God will use our efforts to continue the advance of his kingdom.


This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor. If you would like to discuss this article in our online community, please visit our Reformed Perspectives Magazine Forum.

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