David and Goliath

Title: David and Goliath

Bible Book: 1 Samuel 17

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Victory; Faith; Giants, Overcoming



The account of David and Goliath is one of the most familiar stories in the Old Testament - yet every time we look at it, if we do so prayerfully and carefully, God reveals to us fresh new insights that can make a powerful difference in our lives. Thus, with a prayer that God will speak to each of us at our point of personal need, and that each of us will respond accordingly, let’s look together at the account of David and Goliath.

This message has two simple points: Goliath’s Threat, and David’s Victory. First, look with me at...


In verses 1-3 we read:

Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and and Azekah, in Ephesdammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.

Verse 4 says, “And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.” It was not uncommon in ancient times for an army to send out a representative, or champion, to fight the representative from an opposing army - with the understanding on the part of both groups that the army whose champion won would be proclaimed the victor, and the other army would surrender. Sometimes the armies did not abide by the outcome and the hostilities would flare up again, but sometimes they did honor the decision.

So, this huge giant of a man, Goliath, steps out to challenge the army of Israel.

I’ll never forget an experience I had as a teenager of seeing the tallest person I had ever seen up to that point in my life. I was on the Sledge, Mississippi, high school basketball team, and we had heard that the Walnut, Mississippi, team had a new player named Max Palmer who was taller than anyone else in the whole county - maybe in the whole state. An invitational tournament was being held in our gym in Sledge, and Walnut was scheduled to play the first night, so all of us boys gathered in the parking lot to get a glimpse of this fellow we had heard so much about. Finally the Walnut team arrived, and all eyes were fixed on the car carrying Max Palmer. The parking lot was dimly lighted, and when Max got out of that car and stood, it was awesome; it was like rearing a telephone pole. Max was over seven feet tall and still growing - and he was a sight to behold. Max didn’t “get in and out” of a car; he “put it on and took it off.”

But if it sounds like Max was big, look again at how the Bible describes Goliath. Verse 4 says that his height was “six cubits and a span.” That translates into between 9 1/2 and 10 feet! - and in light of how goggle-eyed we teen-age boys in Sledge were as we looked at Max Palmer, I can only imagine how these Israelite soldiers felt as they looked at the spectacle of Goliath walking out toward them.

Verse 5 says, “And he had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.” That translates into about 125 pounds. So, he was not only tall, he was extremely strong.

Verse 6 says, “And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.” We read in verse 7, “And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.” His spear’s head weighed about 18 pounds.

Then we read in verses 8-10 of Goliath’s taunting challenge:

And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, than will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.

What an ominous, fearful sight that must have been, to see that great hulk of a man hurling threats at them. He must have looked like a Sherman tank with all its assorted armaments.

Now, obviously you and I are not likely to run up against any physical giants who are between 9 1/2 and 10 feet tall, but every last one of us does face giants of a different sort - that is, we all face obstacles, quandaries, and other challenges in life which are every bit as threatening and dangerous, every bit as fearful and intimidating, as any physical giant could ever be. Some under the sound of my voice are probably facing one or more such giants right now, at this particular point in your life - and if you aren’t, take my word for it, you will face giants somewhere along the way.

You might be facing the Goliath of some great sorrow, which threatens to embitter you and keep you from going forward and making the best of life’s opportunities. Or you might be facing the Goliath of some terrible anger, some great resentment, that makes it seem impossible to forgive the person who has wronged you - and that anger is consuming you. Perhaps someone else is facing the Goliath of suffering, that threatens to make you wallow in self-pity and miss the blessings that could be yours in spite of your pain. Some folks face the Goliath of jealousy - envying someone who appears to have the edge over you, and it frustrates you and disheartens you. Maybe someone has lied about you, and that exasperates and infuriates you, and you face the gigantic challenge of trying to figure out what to do about it.

Your giant may be some great disappointment, such as over a child that has gone astray and broken your heart. If you’re a young person, your giant may be some disheartening challenge that you face at school - it may have to do with acceptance by your peers, or athletics, or grades - or your giant may have to do with your home situation, or your relations with the opposite sex, or some extremely discouraging personal problem. The Goliath facing you might be some terrible moral temptation that threatens to crush you and ruin you.

But whatever the form in which it comes, you can count on it - if not now, at least somewhere along the way, you’ll find yourself facing Goliath. He will hurl his blasphemous, defiant threats, and it will seem that there’s no way you can overcome him. Your problem may appear to be so big that there is no way through it, over it, around it, or under it.

But don’t throw in the towel - don’t give up the ship - because there are some powerful lessons to be learned from...


When Goliath appeared there was a pitiful response on the part of Saul and the men of Israel. Verse 11: “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.” Verse 24 tells us that “all the men of Israel...fled from him....”

In my mind’s eye I can see it: Goliath throws back his head and bursts forth with thunderous, blasphemous laughter. These Israelite soldiers look on with nervous embarrassment and shame, but they don’t move a peg; they’re absolutely paralyzed with fear and cowardice. They’ve forgotten about why they are fighting; they’ve forgotten about what is at stake; all they can think of is the giant who stands before them and appears to be so formidable - and they just crumble.

Discouragement is still one of Satan’s most oft-used and effective weapons. If he can cause you or me to become downhearted and despondent in the face of an obstacle, he has halfway won the battle.

But, thank the Lord, there was one person there that day who didn’t think the situation was hopeless. David, a teenager, the youngest of several boys, had been sent by his father to check on the welfare of his brothers and to take them some supplies. Young David begins talking with some of the soldiers. They tell him of the rewards to be given to anyone who could defeat Goliath. Being human, David was probably interested in those rewards, but rewards were not his chief concern, not by any means. In the later part of verse 26 David says, “...for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” He was concerned about the Lord’s cause.

David’s brothers saw his countenance grow solemn and stern, and they saw his eyes begin to flash. They sensed what was about to happen, and one of them rebuked him - but David had made up his mind.

We read in verses 32-33:

And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.

Then David goes on to tell Saul how, in protecting his sheep, he was enabled by God to kill a bear on one occasion and a lion on another, and he goes on to declare confidently in verse 37: “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.”

After David tried on Saul’s armor and couldn’t use it, verse 40 says: “And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.”

Verse 41 says: “And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.” The tension is mounting. David and Goliath advance toward one another; soon they are close enough that Goliath sees that David is only a lad, and the giant begins to curse loudly and blasphemously.

Verses 43-44: “And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.”

Probably Goliath expected David to stop in his tracks and start quaking with fear; he probably expected David to be intimidated to silence - but not so. According to verses 45-46 David said:

Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God is Israel.

Now watch David. He steps forward; he reaches in his shepherd’s bag, takes out a smooth stone, and places it in his sling; he looks intently as Goliath puts his hand on his huge sword and snarls. Now David begins whirling his sling - faster, faster, faster, as he runs toward the Philistine giant. Then with every ounce of energy he possesses he hurls the stone straight toward Goliath’s forehead. There is a sickening thud. The giant’s eyes roll; he staggers; then he crashes to the ground like a huge redwood tree. David runs, pulls Goliath’s sword from its sheath, and beheads the giant.

Then there goes up a roaring shout of approval from the Israelite army. The men of Israel spring from their trenches and soon the Philistines are put to flight. One person has had the courage to trust in God and face the foe, and the Israelite soldiers quickly catch the spirit of what he has done. Whenever a child of God exercises strong faith in the Lord and conquers the obstacle or temptation that confronts him, others are inspired to tackle their own fears and again move forward for Christ.

So, let me wrap it all up: we all face our Goliaths at various times along the way. It may be that at this present time in your life Goliath is hurling his defiant threats at you. You’re facing some gigantic, seemingly insurmountable obstacle or temptation. You’re wondering, “How on earth am I going to deal with this?”

Take a cue from David, a teenager who refused to be intimidated and give in to defeat. You, too, can be victorious over your giants if you go about it as David did. Here, in summary, are some of the lessons we can learn from David’s victory over Goliath:


In verse 37, David said, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” The Israelite soldiers looked at Goliath and said, “He’s too big to tackle.” David said, “He’s too big to miss.” David’s attitude was that, with the Lord’s help, any obstacle can be overcome - and that is certainly in line with the rhetorical question stated in Jeremiah 31:27 says: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?” - and of course the answer to that is a thundering, resounding, “No!” In Mark 9:23 Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” So, look at your challenges in a positive light. Wallace Johnson, the founder of Holiday Inns, used to say, “A problem is an opportunity with overalls on.”


In verse 45 David said to Goliath, “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts....” Apparently he had the same assurance now, as a teen-ager, that he later expressed in Psalm 23:4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” When you and I face our giants, we, too, need to remember that whatever a believer faces, he never walks alone. In Hebrews 13:5 God promises the believer, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” And here is this wonderful promise in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

In a certain town there was a man who had faced the Goliath of alcohol for years, unsuccessfully. But during a revival meeting in the local church he repented and trusted Jesus Christ - and even though the temptation might have still been present, by the power of God he overcame it. The neighborhood bar hated to lose such a good customer, and one day as this new convert was walking down the street the bartender, who happened to be standing out in front of the bar, called out to him, and said, “What’s wrong? Why do you keep going past instead of coming in?” The new convert halted for a moment, then with a skyward glance and with a grateful tear glistening in his eye, replied: “It is not that I keep going past; we go past! That’s the secret; we go past, Jesus and I!”

On the tombstone of a great Christian man who lies buried in Westminster Abbey are these words: “He feared man so little, because he feared God so much.” David claimed the presence and power of God.


Trusting in God for the ultimate victory, take whatever action is available to you in the situation at hand. David trusted in the Lord, but - as we see in 1 Samuel 17 - he went out to fight Goliath. He didn’t sit back and say, “Lord, please make that giant go away!” - and so it is with you and me; if we are to conquer our giants, we’re going to have to follow that example: do what you can, and trust God to do what you can’t. Someone has said, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” James 4:17 puts it this way: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The two key words in that promise are “submit” and “resist.”


As you trust in God, and as you take appropriate action, be yourself. By all means, strive to be your best self, and seek always to grow spiritually so that your best self becomes even better - but the point is, use whatever abilities God has equipped you with, and don’t try to be something or somebody that you are not.

In verses 38-39 we see that Saul tried to give his armor to David, but David realized that Saul’s armor simply wouldn’t work for him, and he took it off. Dave Wilkinson, a Presbyterian preacher, put it like this: “It couldn’t have been easy for David to walk away from all that loving expertise Saul offers him. But to go and meet Goliath wearing Saul’s armor will be a disaster. David needs to fight the battle using what he knows. What he knows is the weapon of the shepherd. If he gets close enough to Goliath to need armor, he’s already lost. It’s game over.”

While looking to Jesus as our ultimate example, to be sure, and while drawing what inspiration and instruction we can from the example of others from whom God would have us learn - at the same time, be the person God intended you to be, and use the gifts and skills with which he has specifically endowed you - only in that way can you reach your maximum effectiveness.


And last, but most certainly not least, let’s be reminded again of David’s motive: in verses 46-47 he said, “...that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s....”

That’s why David was willing to face a foe stronger and more heavily armed than he. He had it in his heart to bring glory to the God of Israel. No doubt many times we fail in what we as Christians undertake because we attempt it with an unworthy motive. God never promised to bless our efforts when our purpose is to take an ego trip, or simply to outdo someone else. David said, “I’ll fight this battle for the glory of God” - and if you and I will face our obstacles with that same kind of motivation, we, too, can be confident of God’s intervention in our behalf. 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”


But perhaps you’re facing the Goliath of sin and temptation and cannot triumph as David did because you’ve never entered into a saving relationship with Christ - that is, you’ve never reached out and received his gift of eternal life by meeting those two conditions set forth in Acts 20:21: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” You don’t need to go on another minute in that lost condition. God loves you; Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins; and he invites you to receive him into your heart right now. In Matthew 11:28 he says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” and in John 6:37 he promises that “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

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