In the book of 1 Samuel we read how King Saul's army remained paralyzed by fear as they listened to the ongoing taunts of a giant named Goliath. But David's reaction was vastly different from the other soldiers. Today on Truth for Life, we'll examine the pivotal point in the battle between Israel and the Philistines. Alistair Begg is teaching from 1 Samuel chapter 17, or in verses 12 through 20.
Back to the text itself. There we have Jesse, advanced in years and the three oldest boys who have gone off to join the battle. You'll notice that they were stationary, and David was going back and forth. In verse 15, he went back and forth from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem. And again, I'll just pause for a minute here. Verse 15 provides an explanation for David's absence having already been made an armor-bearer in chapter 16.
Right? So people read the text and say, Now, wait a minute. He became an armor-bearer for Saul in chapter 16, and now we're here in chapter 17, and apparently nobody knows what's going on. What you've got is you've got, in 14–23, you've got a little glimpse into a future event which is set in such a way as to enable us to realize that the significance of both his private and his public declaration is there. Now, with this stated, then—sorry to have started this movie thing, but the camera then cuts again to the valley, doesn't it? And David was the youngest of the three.
David went back and forth, and then once again it cuts to verse 16, and for forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand morning and evening. Okay? So we've got the picture. They're all there.
They're doing nothing. And then we know, according to verse 16, that while we've had this little moment or two in Bethlehem, through all of that time the same stuff has been going on as we've seen before, and for forty days morning and evening the big giant is saying his speech. All right. Now we come to the sandwich delivery. And the sandwich delivery is an ordinary task. If he is the boy of charge, if he is the one who, by his youthfulness and his agility and his willing spirit, is prepared to do the bidding of his father, then it's no surprise that as on previous occasions he would be dispatched in this way. And what is quite remarkable about it, of course, is the fact that the hands that will now bear the loaves and the cheese to the camp—an ordinary task—will also be the hands that wield the sword that chops off Goliath's head.
Who would have imagined that this would be the case? And so he is dispatched. "'Take off,' says Jesse, "'go to your brothers and deliver these things and let me know what's happening.'" Verse 19, because Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah fighting with the Philistines. Hardly.
Hardly. They were there with the Philistines, but as far as we know, there wasn't a lot of fighting going on. David, who's the kind of boy you might expect, up early in the morning, verse 20, leaves the sheep with the keeper—in the same way that when you go on vacation you have to leave your dog with somebody—and he has his sheep. Someone needs to look after them. He makes provision for them. He takes the provision.
He goes as his dad has commanded him. And he arrives at the scene of the battle, at the encampment, verse 20, as they were going out to the battle line, and they were shouting the war cry. So he arrives, where there's a lot of shouting going on.
But that was really all that was going on. If you're going to be soldiers, you have to have a battle cry. I know that here in America they have that thing where you have a cry, Ohio State has a cry, there's some screaming that goes on down in Alabama or something like that, they have a cry, and it's understandable, you know.
They say, Here we come, you know. I don't know if I… I told you before, the first time I saw an American football game, and it was in Bushee and Hertfordshire in England, the Air Force, United States Air Force team, was playing some other group. I don't know the other group. And a number of things stood out to me. One was the cheerleaders.
As a sixteen-year-old boy, I was immediately interested to discover this unique sensation. But I don't remember what any of them looked like, but I do remember what they said. And they had a chant, they had pom-poms, and they waved them, and they would say—I remember vividly—they said, before the game started, before the team started, they said, You can do it, you can do it, you can, you can.
You can do it, you can do it, you can, you can. So I figured, Okay, let's see how they do. And, you know, cutting a long story short, they couldn't. And so the cry seemed more ridiculous as the time went on. I mean, somebody should tell them, Change it! So you have this picture, and he arrives, and they're all saying, Here we go, here we go, here we go!
They're going nowhere! And David walks into the middle of all of that. And he went to greet his brothers, and as he talked with them, out he comes, the giant Goliath by name, and spoke the same words as before. In other words, he did his party speech.
And look at that little sentence at the end of 23. And David heard him. Or you say, Of course he heard him. He was shouting.
It's striking in its simplicity, isn't it? You say, Well, everybody heard him. No, no, I don't think the army of Israel heard him. I don't think they'd heard him for a while. They were listening without hearing. They were like people at Parkside Church on a Sunday morning in the Second Service, listening without hearing, able to hear what is being said and yet not understand.
But David heard. It was just the sight, we're told, of the man that caused them to flee. Verse 24, When they saw the man, they fled from him and were very much afraid. That was enough just to trigger their pathetic retreat—a retreat that we've seen before back in chapter 13. You find out for your homework.
So, so far not so good. Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, and whatever the next one was, I can remember, sandwich delivery. And then I wrote down, David verifies the word on the street and asks the important question. David verifies the word on the street and asks the important question. Now, I was explaining to my wife just last night that when I read verses 25 and 26, I hear them essentially with a Scottish accent, and I hear them like the word on the street.
I would have to take you back to my home city and take you on the subway or take you on the bus and listen to the interchange of people remarking on what is going on. Because when you read this, and the men of Israel said… Now, let's do it with an English accent, okay? And the men of Israel said, Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. They said, There's nothing like stating the obvious. They said, What do you mean? Have we seen him?
Now, if you do it as on the bus in Glasgow, it goes like this. See that big giant? Of course they… See the big giant! Do you know what?
If you fight him and you kill him, you get a big load of cash, you get the king's daughter, and you get free taxes for the rest of your life. You're kidding me! That's what's happening. That's the conversation. See the big giant! Of course we see the big giant! But if you say, Oh, do you see the big giant? No, see the big giant!
Yes, that's what's happening. And into the middle of that, David comes. And that's why I read it the way I read it. And David said to the man who stood by him, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philisti?
No, I try not to read it like that. And David said to the man who said, You see the big giant. David said, What did you say you get? That's what he's saying.
What did you say you get? Are you kidding me? It's not that he didn't hear. He's incredulous. I think he's probably incredulous, because he's saying to himself, If that is on offer, it's amazing to me that nobody's had a crack at this fellow.
Because the incentive is significant. Of course, David is a man. And as you know, if you read forward, he actually ended up with the king's daughter, which didn't actually work out particularly well, but nevertheless, there you have it. So he tunes into the word on the street, but then he asks the question. He asks the question. There are two questions, I take it.
You know, what will be done? But the real question is in the second half of the verse. Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? See what he's saying? Who does this character think he is? Who does this worshiper of non-gods think he is to stand out here and shout every morning and every night to you who are the professed children of the living God? Who does he think he is? Don't you remember chapter 5?
He didn't say that. Don't you remember chapter 5, Dagon? And he keeps falling on his face, and his head falls off.
He's the epitome of the pagan non-gods. They had to set him up in case he toppled. They had to carry him around. They had to take him places.
You don't do that with the living God. Now, what has happened, you see, is that David, an unlikely character, has entered into the middle of the fray, and he has asked the question. He has asked the uncomfortable question. He's asked the vital question.
What in the world is going on here? These people were focused on the goods. You know, this is what you get. David is interested in God's glory. The poet who one day will write, O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
is there to say, This should not be happening. Now, interestingly, you will notice that the people answer his first question in verse 27, but they don't answer his second question. What shall be done for the man? What are they gonna do for the man? And then he says, But who is this chap? Verse 27, And the people answered him in the same way. So shall it be done to the man who kills him.
They never even addressed the question with him. That's the challenge of the prophet, incidentally. That's the role of the prophet, who steps into a situation and says, Do you realize what's really going on here?
The people, by their testimony, say, No, we don't know what's going on here. It takes this unlikely character—the smallest, the youngest, the anointed one, as we know—to step forward in this way. The last thing I wrote in my notes was, This is more than sibling rivalry. Verse 28, to the end of our passage, This is more than sibling rivalry. Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men, and it really ticked him off. His anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why have you come down?
Wait a minute. Isn't that Goliath's line? You mean Eliab is now gonna… he's gonna line up with Goliath? When I read this, it reminded me of a quote from D. E. Host, who was the successor to Hudson Taylor as the director of the China Inland Mission. And D. E. Host, on one occasion, when he was asked about how they established people's credentials for being involved as missionaries with the China Inland Mission, he said, I would never appoint a man or a woman to the task of world mission until first they had learned to wrestle with the enemy. For if they have not learned to wrestle with the enemy, they will wrestle with their fellow missionaries.
That's exactly it. Eliab and the rest of them are paralyzed by the enemy. David shows up and challenges their preoccupations, and they start to take him on. It's a mixture, isn't it, of jealousy, of hostility? It should bring to mind for some of us at least the reaction, the animosity of the brothers of Joseph way back in Genesis. There's little doubt that Eliab is still stinging from the fact that he was passed over in the events of the first half of chapter 16.
Nobody likes being overlooked. When Samuel arrives to anoint a new king, and he makes the mistaken judgment that Eliab, being the biggest and the firstborn, is probably the right person, and God says, No, he's not the right person. And so Samuel has to say, Sorry, it's not you, and it's not you, and it's not you, and it's not you, and it's not you.
Well, who in the world is it? And then the older brothers have got to stand there and watch. Well, the little guy, the most unlikely one, is anointed as the king. And so he accuses David of the presumption of which he himself is guilty. I know your presumption, he says. I know the evil of your heart.
Only God knows. For you have come down to see the battle. I love that. I wish there was just a little other bit in the text, which it isn't, and you're not allowed to add to the text. But it sounds silly to say, but if I was writing this, it would have said, And for you have come down to see the battle, and David said, What battle? Because there's no battle. You just came to see the fighting.
Yeah? I don't see any fighting. But no, then he replies, it's just like brothers and sisters. And David said, Well, what have I done now? Goodness gracious, I came here, I brought sandwiches for you, and we're in the middle of this? Can't I even speak? No, you've just come to watch.
There's nothing to watch. And so he turns away. Turns away, finds another little cluster of individuals, spoke to them in the same way. Presumably he said, you know, What is it with this big and circumcised Philistine that he would challenge the army of the living God? And the people answered him again as before.
In other words, they said, Well, you know what you get. David mostly said, That's not what I'm asking you. But here's the fascinating thing, because what we need to wonder about is, if this news gets to Saul, what will happen then? But I want to end by just reading two verses from the gospel record in relationship to another shepherd, the good shepherd. And Jesus coming to his hometown taught them in their synagogue so that they were astonished and said, Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother called Mary? Are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?
Where then did this man get all these things? And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.
It's quite striking, isn't it, that the pushback on David for making the declaration that he does doesn't come from unknown warriors parked up on the side of the hill but comes from his very own family, despised by his own brothers. Who would have thought, then, that this little man would be the champion of Israel? Who would have thought?
Who would have thought? Who does think that all of the massive problems of the world—all of the massive problems of the world—all of the issues and problems and challenges of our individual lives find their ultimate solution in the death of a Galilean carpenter on a Judean hillside, AD 33? If you think that the people looked down and said, There's no way in the world that that wee guy is going to really matter for much in this great conflict, that is nothing compared to the reaction of the defiant forces of the non-gods of our world who look and pontificate and speculate and pronounce and dismiss out of hand the story of the good news that in Jesus there is a champion—the champion who calls out to those who find themselves weary in the battle of life, Hey, come to me.
Come to me. I guess it raises the question, Whose side are we on? That's a question for each one of us to be asking ourselves. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg.
Alistair will be back in just a moment to close today's program. Here at Truth for Life, we share David's zeal for God's glory and his confidence in God's providential care of his people. That's why we're passionate about our mission, which is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance so that unbelievers will become committed followers of Jesus, believers will continue to grow in their faith, and local churches will be strengthened.
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You can also give us a call at 888-588-7884. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. God grant that our hearts may be soft to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as a Savior, Lord, and King. May our eyes be opened to see the affairs of our world in light of the revelation of Scripture. And may our feet be ready to go with the good news that there is one who stands in our place and accomplishes on our behalf what we could never achieve by ourselves. May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one who believes, today and forevermore.
Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Why was a young shepherd boy willing to face a giant whose challenge had left the king and his army paralyzed with fear? What did he know that the army didn't? We'll find out tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
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