One of the most iconic stories of the Bible is the battle between David and Goliath. It is well-worn territory for children’s Sunday School classes, sermons, and men’s retreats. It has held such a power over our culture’s conscience that the imagery of David defeating Goliath is often used in athletics and business.
The story, on its face, is simple in detail and beautiful in its miracle. The physical giant Goliath, a champion Philistine soldier, is challenged by a boy who was just delivering lunch to his big brothers. A shepherd boy takes on a seasoned warrior. But the boy was not alone for the Lord was fighting on his behalf. With a sling and a stone, the giant was slain in front of his fellow soldiers.
Stand up for the right thing
Too many people think that they are David and their negative circumstances are Goliath. But, that’s not what the story is about. We spend too much time looking for the way to be heroic. But David was not looking to be the hero of the story. He as not even seeking to justify the Israelites. The shepherd boy was standing up for the name and reputation of the Lord.
Just as they are today, battles in the ancient world were about power. In this particular one, the power of the Hebrews’ deity was called into question. You and I might be tempted to use David’s courage as a template to stand up for self, personal achievement, or some other self-serving goal. But that was not David’s reasoning for walking on to the battlefield to confront Goliath.
Goliath and the Philistines besmirched the Lord’s reputation. David stood up against the worldly insults levied against his God. This is the battle into which we should be most concerned. Doubtlessly, the world will belittle, bully, and try to rebuff you. Does it hurt? Of course. Is our ultimate priority to defend our own reputation? As tough as it is, no. Our chief concern is the same as David’s. We should stand up for the good name of our God.
This is the risk that’s worth it
We learn from David what is worth the risk. This young lad was not looking to gain favor, build a reputation for himself, or get any notice. There was nothing in this equation for him if he lost on the battlefield. David was not going to be defeated on that field. He was going to die. That was the risk.
As I consider the flippant way I toss around the “I’m going to take this risk” idea. I’ve risked my reputation but that can be rebuilt. I’ve risked failure but it’s temporary because there’s always new opportunities. I’ve risked embarrassment but that’s just normal for human life. But I’ve never risked my life.
We must be careful not to turn this story into a cartoon episode for kids. Someone’s life was on the line and everyone there thought it was David’s. He knew it. King Saul knew it. Goliath was sure of it. In the face of the human certainty that David was risking his life, he felt it worth it.
As you consider where you put your energy and your passion, this is the place to ask a critical question. Do you take risks for you the mission of me or the mission of God? The world, our flesh, and the enemy will tempt you to do everything for the mission that will satisfy ego. But here’s where we see the beginnings of how God would describe David: “The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).
God is always at work in mysterious ways
David put his passion in standing for the name of the Lord when insulted by the world. In doing so, David got to participate where God was already working; and working in miraculous ways. In days past, the Hebrews witnessed God miraculously deliver them on the battlefield.
At the end of this story, we learn that it is not about the size of the enemy. It is not about the passion of the boy soldier or how well he slung that rock. It was that the Lord delivered miraculously – once again – for His people and for His own fame. As David unsheathed Goliath’s sword to relieve the giant of his head, it was a complete interruption of what should have normally happened. David should not have been on the field as Israel’s champion. The giant should not have been killed by a rock launched by a kid. God intervened and saved David’s life and sustained the covenant with His people.
From this story, we learn that God is at work to keep His promises. He works in us to show off His glory through us. The story of David and Goliath is not for the kids to learn about heroics. It’s for all of us to be reminded that God’s fame is worth whatever it might cost us. May the Lord bless you with a knowledge of His greatness and every chance to stand for His name in this world.
Dr. Philip Nation is the VP/Publisher Thomas Nelson Bibles. He’s a pastor, professor, and author of numerous works including Habits for Our Holiness, Compelled: Living the Mission of God, and Pursuing Holiness: Applications from James. He and his wife Angie are the happy parents to a set of 20-something sons.