“And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” – 1 Samuel 17: 2-11
This is one of my favorite Bible stories. It is a climactic combat, winner takes all competition where the hero is the underdog. It pits the big guy against the little guy. The little guy triumphs and goes on to even greater glory. What’s there not to like about this story.
The Philistines have entered into Israelite territory looking to increase their territory and also to place the Israelites in subjection to themselves. The Philistines are feeling pretty confident about their chances. And the reason for their confidence lies in a champion that has risen, quite literally, among them. His name is Goliath, a name that has ever since then always been associated with someone who is tall and large in stature. With Goliath as their champion, the Philistines believe they will win the battle.
That is how the army of the Israelites saw it too. Goliath has had the desired effect on the army of Israel. Israel has allowed themselves to be intimidated by this Goliath. And no wonder. Look at the details we are given about Goliath. He stands over nine feet tall. This guy is two feet taller than Shaquille O’Neal. This guy would not even have to jump in order to put a basketball into the basket. All he would have to do is reach up and slam it home. He is no skinny giant either. He is strong. He has to be strong. Look at the armor that he wears. The coat of armor that he wears to protect his chest and back weighs 125 pounds. The point of the spear that he threw weighed 15 pounds all by itself. So, judging from the description that you have of this guy, this is not a guy that most people would want to battle with to the death. No wonder no one in the army of Israel was willing to step forward and say, “I will take this guy up on his offer and fight him.” He was huge and intimidating. And the Philistines used him well to gain the psychological advantage.
The rest of the story is found in 1 Samuel 17: 41-51: “And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand. When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it.
Remember what the Bible says, “Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.” Greater is He, meaning Jesus, who is in me; than he, meaning Satan, who is in the world. That is who we have to fight with us and for us. That’s who David had at his side and why he won the battle.
- Are you afraid of anything? What is required to get rid of fears? Do previous encounters make us stronger and less afraid in the future?
- Why was David so confident that he could defeat Goliath?
- Is being the underdog a disadvantage? Are disadvantages really advantages when God is involved?
- Are there challenges you faced in the past that prepared you for more important challenges later? Can you trace a gradual strengthening of your faith?
- Pray and ask God for the courage to face up to your fears.