DAVID braced himself against the rush of soldiers jostling past him. They were wide-eyed with fear as they ran away from the battle line. What scared them so? Over and over, David must have heard them nervously repeating one word. It was the name of a man. And there, standing defiantly on the valley floor, was the man himself, perhaps looming larger than any man David had ever seen.
Goliath! David could see why the soldiers feared him
The Israelites cowered. King Saul cowered. The situation, David learned, had been dragging on for over a month! The two armies, Philistine and Israelite, remained deadlocked as Goliath repeated his taunts day after day. David was distressed. How humiliating to think of Israel’s king and his soldiers, including three of David’s older brothers, cringing in fear! In David’s eyes, this pagan Goliath was doing far worse than embarrassing the army of Israel; he was insulting the God of Israel, Jehovah! But what could David, a mere youth, do about it? And what can we today learn from the faith of David?
“ANOINT HIM, FOR THIS IS THE ONE!”
Let us go back to a time many months earlier. Evening was falling as David tended his father’s sheep somewhere on the hillsides near Bethlehem. He was a well-formed young man, likely still in his teens, with a ruddy look about him and appealing, intelligent eyes. In quiet moments, he passed the time playing the harp. The beauty of God’s creation moved him, and his musical skills had grown steadily through many happy hours of practice. But on the evening in question, David was summoned. His father wanted to see him right away.
He found his father, Jesse, talking with a very old man. It was the faithful prophet Samuel. Jehovah had sent him to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as Israel’s next king! Samuel had already seen David’s seven older brothers, but Jehovah made it clear to Samuel that He had chosen none of them. When David arrived, though, Jehovah told Samuel: “Anoint him, for this is the one!” In front of all of David’s older brothers, Samuel opened a hollowed-out horn filled with special oil and poured some of it on David’s head. David’s life was never the same after that anointing. The Bible says: “The spirit of Jehovah began to empower David from that day forward.”
Did David begin to cultivate ambitions about the kingship? No, he was content to wait on the leading of Jehovah’s spirit to let him know when it was time to assume greater responsibilities. In the meantime, he continued his humble work of shepherding. It was a work that he carried out with great dedication and courage. His father’s flocks were threatened on two occasions, once by a lion and once by a bear. David did not simply try to drive off those predators from a safe distance. Rather, he leaped right into the fray to defend his father’s helpless sheep. Both times, he single-handedly killed the ferocious wild beast!
In time, David was summoned again. His reputation had reached the ears of King Saul. Though still a powerful warrior, Saul had lost Jehovah’s favor by rebelling against God’s instructions. Jehovah had withdrawn his spirit from Saul, and thus the king was often subject to a bad spirit
Young people in particular can learn much from David’s faith in these matters. Notice that he spent his spare time in pursuits that drew him closer to Jehovah. Additionally, he patiently developed skills that were practical and that made him readily employable. Above all, though, he responded to the leading of Jehovah’s spirit. What outstanding lessons for all of us to learn!
“LET NO ONE LOSE HEART BECAUSE OF HIM”
While serving Saul, David often returned home to shepherd the sheep, sometimes for extended periods. It was during one such period that Jesse sent David to check on the three oldest sons, who were serving in Saul’s army. Obediently David, laden with supplies for his brothers, headed to the Valley of Elah. When he arrived, he was dismayed to find the two armies locked in the stalemate described at the outset of this article. They faced each other from the opposing slopes of that wide, curved valley.
To David, the situation was not tolerable. How could the army of the living God, Jehovah, flee in terror from a mere man
David spoke these encouraging words to the king about Goliath: “Let no one lose heart because of him.” Saul and his men had indeed lost heart because of Goliath. Perhaps they had made the natural mistake of comparing themselves to that huge man, picturing how they came up only to the man’s midriff or chest. They imagined that armored giant making short work of them. But David did not think that way. As we will see, he saw the problem in a completely different light. So he offered to fight Goliath himself.
Saul objected: “You are not able to go fight against this Philistine, for you are but a boy, and he has been a soldier from his youth.” Was David really a child? No, but he was too young to join the army, and he may have been youthful looking. But David was already known as a valiant fighter and may have been in his late teens by this time.
David reassured Saul by recounting what had happened with the lion and the bear. Was he boasting? No. David knew how he had won those battles. He said: “Jehovah, who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear, he is the one who will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Resigned at last, Saul responded: “Go, and may Jehovah be with you.”
Would you like to have faith like David’s? Note, then, that David’s faith was not mere idealism or wishful thinking. He had faith in his God because of knowledge and experience. He knew Jehovah as a loving Protector and a Keeper of promises. If we want to acquire such faith, we need to keep learning about the God of the Bible. As we live by what we learn, we will find that the good results will likewise strengthen our faith.
“JEHOVAH WILL SURRENDER YOU INTO MY HAND”
At first, Saul tried to outfit David with his own armor. It was much like Goliath’s, made of copper, and it likely included a large hauberk, or shirt of mail, composed of overlapping scales. However, David tried moving about while wearing that large and cumbersome equipment and soon found that it would not work for him. He was not trained as a soldier, so he was not used to wearing armor, especially the armor that was worn by Saul, who was the tallest man in the nation of Israel! (1 Samuel 9:2) He removed it all and chose the garb he was used to wearing
David carried his shepherd’s staff, a bag over his shoulder, and a sling. Now a sling might not seem like much, but it was in fact a formidable weapon. Consisting of a small pouch at the end of two long leather straps, it was an ideal weapon for a shepherd. He would place a stone in the pouch, whirl it over his head at great speed, and then release one of the straps, hurling the stone with lethal accuracy. So effective was this weapon that armies sometimes used divisions of slingers.
Thus equipped, David hurried to meet his foe. We can only imagine David’s fervent prayers as he stooped in the dry riverbed on the valley floor and collected five small, smooth stones. Then he went out onto the field of battle
When Goliath saw his opponent, what did he think? “He sneered at him in contempt,” we read, “because he was just a ruddy and handsome boy.” Goliath boomed out: “Am I a dog, so that you are coming against me with sticks?” Evidently he saw David’s staff but took no note of the sling. He cursed David in the name of the Philistine gods and vowed to feed the corpse of this contemptible foe to the birds and beasts of the field.
To this day, David’s response stands as a great statement of faith. Just imagine the young man calling out to Goliath: “You are coming against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I am coming against you in the name of Jehovah of armies, the God of the battle line of Israel, whom you have taunted.” David knew that human power and weaponry mattered little. Goliath had shown disrespect for Jehovah God, and Jehovah would respond. As David put it, “the battle belongs to Jehovah.”
David was not blind to Goliath’s size or his weapons. Yet David refused to let such things daunt him. He did not make the mistake that Saul and the members of his army did. David did not compare himself to Goliath. Instead, he looked at Goliath in comparison with Jehovah. Standing some nine and a half feet (2.9 m) tall, Goliath towered over other men, but how big was he compared to the Sovereign of the universe? Really, like any human, he was barely more than an insect
David ran toward his foe, reaching into his bag for a stone. He loaded his sling and whirled it over his head until it fairly whistled. Goliath, perhaps close behind his shield-bearer, advanced toward David. Goliath’s great height may actually have been a disadvantage for him, since a shield-bearer of normal size could hardly have raised a shield high enough to protect the giant’s head. And that is just where David aimed.
David released his stone. Imagine the silence as it hurtled toward its mark. Jehovah doubtless made sure that David would not have to fling another one. The stone struck home, sinking into Goliath’s forehead. The colossus toppled to the earth, facedown! The shield-bearer likely fled in terror. David approached, took Goliath’s own sword, and cut off the giant’s head with it.
Finally, Saul and his soldiers found their courage. With a mighty battle cry, they rushed against the Philistines. The battle turned out just as David had told Goliath that it would: “Jehovah . . . will give all of you into our hand.”
Today, servants of God do not engage in carnal warfare. That time has passed. (Matthew 26:52) Still, we do need to imitate the faith of David. Like him, we need to see Jehovah as real