Godís power manifested in our weakness

1 Samuel 17 SCC 1/25/15


When we come to the account of the contest between David and Goliath, we find that only one person saw this situation from a divine point of view. The Israelites had entrusted themselves to a man, Saul, rather than to God. But when this man failed to measure up to Saul in physical stature and to God in character and might, then the Israelites were in serious trouble. No wonder they fled when challenged by Goliath. No wonder no one was willing to take on Goliath. David saw things differently and itís that difference that teaches us something about God and those with His heart.



First, v 1-11 tells us that those threats can mean actual harm. They are not just idle ones. Here Goliath, a giant, nearly nine feet tall, issues a challenge v 8. The stakes are high. The Philistines proposed a battle in which two representative champions from Israel and Philistia would duel it out, a not uncommon method of limiting war in the ancient world. However the Israelites had no one who could compete with Goliath physically. That was the only dimension to the conflict that Saul and his generals saw. Since Saul was the tallest Israelite and the king, he was the natural choice for an opponent. However, as earlier Saul was staying in the background when he should have been leading the people. At this juncture, Saul and all Israel were dismayed and greatly afraid v 11.

Second, v 12-17 tells us that while the threats may persist God is active in them. At this time in his life David was assisting Saul as his armor-bearer when he was not tending his fatherís sheep v 15. God was in this responsibility and timing for David. David journeyed to the battle site to bring food v 18 to his brothers and their fellow soldiers and to collect news to bring back to his father. The battle had been a standoff for 40 days v 16. The number 40 often represents a period of testing in the Bible like the Israelitesí testing in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesusí testing for 40 days. This was another test for Israel. Would the nation trust in the arm of the flesh or in God?

Third, v 18-28 tells us that the faithful face the threats in faith. David seems to have considered himself capable of defeating Goliath from the first time he heard of Goliathís insults to the Lord. The fact that he referred to the Lord as the living God v 26 shows Davidís belief that God was still the same Person who could defeat present enemies as He had done in the past. Faith in God always rests on a word from God in Scripture. Most of the Israelites took Goliathís challenge as defying Israel v 25 but David interpreted it as defying the living God the only true God v 26. Here Davidís heart for God begins to manifest itself.



1. What we see here and what irritated his older brother Eliab, was that David kept asking about the incentive Saul had offered to anyone who will kill Goliath. Once in v 25 and then again in v 27 David was told of the prize for victory. Itís not because David is unclear about what the offer is or that he has doubts about the offer. It is because David cannot understand why no one has stepped forward to fight and win the prize offered by Saul. And the reason is simple: they were afraid to do so.

2. Davidís words explain why he was so perplexed. This wasnít about Goliath; it wasnít about his size or his skill as a warrior. This wasnít even about David. This was about God, about His name, His glory, His honor, His power. This Philistine dared to defy the living God. Goliathís trust was in his godís v 43. So it was but another instance of the ďno-godsĒ of the heathen versus the living God of Israel. Let someone, anyone, stand up and prove that the living God is greater than all the no-gods of the heathen.

3. David does not rebuke Saul for his lack of faith or leadership v 32. David was not even a soldier, but only a young shepherd boy who had come to deliver food and to bring a report home to his father. But he does exhort the king and all the others not to panic. David volunteers to fight this Philistine. Saulís fears not only included himself; he was fearful for David v 33.

4. Davidís defense to Saul is two-fold, and both elements are God-centered. Just as he had done with the Israelite soldiers, David points out why Goliath must be fought and why his defeat is a certainty: He has defied the armies of the living God! v 36. David was certain that the living God would not allow such blasphemy to go unanswered. Goliath was history; the only question was, ďWho will be the one who is privileged to silence him?Ē

5. But Davidís faith is not merely theoretical; David has experienced the power of God in his life as a shepherd. The assumption of Eliab and of Saul was that David was a young and inexperienced lad, without any experience in warfare. All David had done was to watch a small flock of his fatherís sheep. But his shepherding experience was such that it gave him great confidence that he could handle the likes of Goliath v 37. If God had proven Himself faithful and powerful to David in the pasture, then most certainly God would give David the victory over Goliath. The ultimate question was not a matter of Davidís skill, his age, or his strength. It was God Who made David strong for battle. Then Saul said to David, ďGo, The Lord will be with youĒ v 37. God works in obscurity to prepare his people.

6. Saul invokes Godís blessing upon David as he goes to accept Goliathís challenge. He even offers David the use of his armor v 38-39. Saul had offered David his armor and his sword Ė all his defensive and offensive weapons of war. David refused them, because he hadnít tested them Ė he wasnít used to them. Remember that such weapons were not commonly available in Israel, and only Saul and his son Jonathan were so equipped 1 Sam 13:22. For such weapons to be useful one would have to be familiar with them; one would need to have used them often. They were new to David, and so he refused them and chose to fight with his sling alone v 40. David used circumstances God dealt him to prepare self.

7. Here, we see another reason why it was necessary for David to decline Saulís offer of his weapons. God wanted to make it clear that just as the battle was His, so was the victory over Goliath. Goliath came armed to the teeth while David came almost empty-handed. So far as Goliath was concerned, he was empty-handed. All he seemed to have was a ďstick,Ē which was his staff. The battle is the Lordís, and God wants this known not only to Goliath, but to all those gathered for battle, whether Philistine or Israelite. It is the Lord who will deliver Goliath into Davidís hand and into the hands of the Israelites.

8. Goliath disdained David because the lad had no battle scars; he was not a warrior at all but simply a fresh-faced boy v 42. Goliath assumed that he would win because his physical power and armaments were superior. As often, pride preceded his fall. David killed him and had Goliaths head as a trophy of war v 51, v 54, and v 57. Verse 58 concludes ĎI am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem


1. Fear and a lack of faith become contagious. Saulís soldiers are frightened because Saul is terrified (17:11, 24). David, a lowly shepherd boy who is too young to be a soldier in Saulís army, comes along and because of his faith and courage, inspires others to trust in God to work through him to kill Goliath and give Israel the victory.

2. God will always have His Davidís and that such men will always have their Goliaths. Sometimes the Goliaths will be individuals; at other times circumstances or even celestial powers. In each case, we must remember, the battle is the Lordís.

3. God is capable of delivering His people any way He chooses. In the case of Goliath, God used a young man and a sling. These may not be impressive weapons in and of themselves, but David and his sling made a big impression on Goliath! When God employs the more mundane means, we should also remember that even our skill at shooting an arrow, or hurling a stone, or standing on slippery ground comes from Him

4. God always seems to give us enemies who are much greater than we are, so that we fight in our weakness, trusting in God and not in ourselves, giving Him the glory, rather than taking the credit ourselves. Itís tempting to come away with the impression that David was a great man (or boy) of God, and that because of his greatness; the Israelites were delivered from the Philistines. David did have great faith, and he did show great courage when he went to battle against Goliath. Our text does show that David was the right person to become Israelís king, replacing Saul. But this is not the primary emphasis of our text.

5. The emphasis of our text is on how great God is. The text is crafted to inform us how big and how well armed Goliath was, and how young and poorly armed David was. Eliab, Saul, and Goliath were agreed on this one thing: David was ďout of his league,Ē or so it appeared, at least.