The story of David and Goliath is very familiar to each of us, but I want to look at it from a different perspective. We will study it in the context of the Week of Prayer theme, “What Will it Take to Stand in the Last Days?” I personally believe that the entire Bible addresses this theme. All through history to the final culmination of the end of time, God has been and is working to bring about in His people a complete and conclusive victory over sin.
This story, as found in 1 Samuel 17, has as its setting the slaying of Goliath by young David. When telling this story to our children, we usually emphasize the bravery of David in taking a stand against Goliath, but that is not solely what this story is about. I wish that we could tell our children more of what God’s plan and purpose is in this whole story, but I am thankful that they do have the introduction to the story of David and Goliath.
Beginning with 1 Samuel 17:1, we read: “Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which [belongeth] to Judah.” Where were the Philistines, in relation to the children of Israel? They were almost right downtown! They were in Judah! They were not over in Philistia—the place they claimed as their own. They were in the area that belonged to Judah, and they “pitched between Shochoh 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.” Verses 2, 3.
Imagine the setting here. On one side of the valley was a mountain, most likely not terribly steep, because one army’s encampment was located there. On the other side was the camp of another army. And down the middle was a valley. Such a setting was like an amphitheater. Voices could carry long distances in this kind of setting. The troops could probably hear what the men of the opposing side were saying.
The Philistines were the aggressors; they were the ones who were coming against Israel. The devil, it seems, is always on the aggressive against God’s people. The Bible tells us that we are to be the ones that are on the offensive, going forth pulling down Satan’s strongholds. But as is so often the case, we just sit back enjoying our leisure, thinking that everything is going to turn out all right; then suddenly, we realize that the devil is waging an attack against us. We find ourselves floundering because we were not on the offensive.
The burden of the writer of 1 Samuel was not only to give an account of Philistine wars but also to make known one of the steps that was necessary in the process of David becoming fitted for the office of the king of Israel. Nothing is stated as to the amount of time that had lapsed between Saul’s victories of the past and the present situation. Saul had had some victories in the past and had settled back thinking that all was well—then an invasion took place. 1 Samuel 14:52 says, “And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul.” Apparently, the invasion that we are reading about in chapter 17 occurred many years after Saul was on the throne as the king of Israel.
A Giant in the Land
So there they were—one group on one side, the other group on the other side—with a valley between them.
1 Samuel 17:4–7 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. And [he had] an 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. And [he had] greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. 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.”
That is quite an intimidating picture painted in these verses! When the Scripture speaks of a champion going out from the Philistines, it is a literal meaning of a man between two middles, or one who enters into the space between two armies in order to decide the victory by a single combat.
From Joshua 11:22, we learn that the town of Gath, mentioned as the home of Goliath, was in the same geographical area as Gaza and Ashdod. Those towns, as we read in Joshua, still had giants living and occupying parts of that area. They were descendants from the giant, Anak. (See Numbers 13:33.)
Concerning this man, Goliath, who was the champion that went out, we are told that his height was six cubits and a span. By our measurements today, he would be about three inches short of ten feet tall! We have never seen anyone that big. We do not know how a person that big would look. The tallest person we have had record of, in the United States, was a man who stood over eight feet tall.
If we think about the tallest person that we have ever seen, he would not even begin to come close to Goliath’s height. Proportionate to his height, Goliath would have weighed approximately 1,800 to 1,900 pounds—close to a ton! I think Goliath’s measurements are given in the Bible to show how out of proportion the victory was. Here was this man, huge in size . . . and there was David.
Righteousness by Faith
The measurements are given to instruct us in regard to righteousness by faith. Many people have the idea that righteousness by faith was something originated by the apostle Paul. Well, I have news for you. Righteousness by faith is revealed all through the Bible, just as is grace. Many people have the idea that grace is a New Testament concept. No, no! Grace is indicated all the way from the Garden of Eden to the promised earth made new.
Righteousness by faith is what will allow God’s people to stand through the end times. If we do not have the concept of righteousness by faith and how to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ, we are going to fail when the pressures come. When the Goliaths come out against us, we are going to fall.
The strength of the enemy is presented in the form of Goliath. The Bible states that he was covered with a coat of mail—literally, clothed in a shirt with metal scales sewn onto the cloth so they would overlap one another. It was flexible, and it protected all sides of the body. Verse 5 of 1 Samuel 17 tells us that it weighed “five thousand shekels of brass,” which would be about 180 pounds. That was the weight of just one piece of Goliath’s armour! He had brass coverings on his legs and “a target of brass between his shoulders.” Verse 6.
We are not told how much those weighed, but brass is heavy. His spearhead weighed about 25 pounds and it topped a staff like a “weaver’s beam.” Verse 7. That was a heavy spear!
Goliath’s entire armour seems very heavy to us, but to him it was just normal gear. To those who saw him, as he rumbled down the hillside day after day and taunted Israel, he surely appeared to be an indomitable foe.
The armies were encamped on each side of the valley, because the valley was a very vulnerable place to be. Goliath knew that, so he would rumble down the mountainside and shout over to the Israelite army. The acoustics were so good that they could hear everything he said. When they saw and heard him, their hearts began to tremble. They were terrified. Israel was not used to seeing that kind of person.
Israel had not thought things through. Even though Goliath was huge and intimidating, they were not fighting alone. They should have at least considered that! Here was a giant of a man who weighed hundreds and hundreds of pounds, wore many pounds of armour, and acted as though nothing could interfere with his harassment of God’s people. But God would have worked for them—if they had allowed Him. God would have worked, even if David had not come upon the scene, if only they would have allowed righteousness by faith to prevail.
All too often, the devil comes along to taunt and harass us. He is determined to discourage us. Unfortunately, we are just as scared of him as the Israelites were of Goliath.
“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, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.” 1 Samuel 17:8, 9.
The interesting thing about this proclamation is that it was nothing but a great, big lie. We will see that as we study further. We are told that the devil has been a liar from the very beginning. The Philistines had no intention of being servants to Israel—but if they had won the battle, what do you think they would have expected of Israel? They would have expected Israel to become their servants. This whole setup should speak loudly and clearly to us.
Dismayed and Afraid
“When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.” Verse 11. Saul was the leader of Israel. If anyone should have responded to the challenge of Goliath, Saul should have. He should have set the example. Goliath was a giant, but so was Saul. You may not have known that, but Saul was also a giant.
1 Samuel 10 tells of the calling of Saul and how, when they went to search for him, he was hiding among the baggage. (Verse 22.) He did not even want to respond to God’s call. When the searchers finally brought him out and stood him among the people, he stood head and shoulders above all Israel. (Verse 23.) He should have been the one who went out to meet the challenge of Goliath. When this loudly boastful Goliath came out, Saul would have immediately answered the challenge and defeated him, if his heart had been right in following the call that God had given to him. The Lord would have given him the victory.
Goliath’s taunting continued. Every day, for 40 days, he blasted the whole valley of Israel with his taunts and challenges. In our normal living, 40 days can go by quite quickly, but camped on a hillside with little to do but polish a spearhead, gather a little food occasionally, and listen to the taunting of a giant—40 days can be a long time. “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.”
A Little Background
“Now David [was] the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-judah, whose name [was] Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men [for] an old man in the days of Saul. And the three eldest sons of Jesse went [and] followed Saul to the battle.” 1 Samuel 17: 12. They enlisted in Saul’s army. They were a part of the organization. “And the names of his three sons that went to the battle [were] Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.” Ibid. David, it says in verse 14, “[was] the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul.” This is not without significance.
This passage provides background information. It tells about David and what his position was in the family tree. He was the youngest, and it had been his task for some time to care for the sheep.
At this point, there is a flashback in the story line. Verse 15 says, “But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Beth-lehem.” This relates a little more background that is not necessarily pertinent to the story, but it is there for a purpose. It lets us know that there is more involved than just a story connecting David and Goliath.
Innocent Errand Boy
“And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days. And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched [corn], and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren.” Verses 16, 17. At this point, David was in Bethlehem, and Jesse had asked him to take a care package from home to his three brothers who were serving in the Israelite army.
“And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of [their] thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge.” Verse 18. In verse 2 we read that “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.” In verse 19, it says, “Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, [were] in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.” All that we have looked at so far has been filler information to get to the main point, but it has given us some very important background.
“David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle.” Verse 20. Israel did not go out to battle or to shout. They were terrified. They were dismayed. They hardly knew how to open their mouths. “For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army. And David left his carriage [the items that he brought] in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.” Verses 21, 22. You can imagine how glad they were to see him. Here they were drawn up in battle array and along came little brother to disrupt things. That was basically how they saw it.
“And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: . . .” Those words he had spoken for 40 days—the taunts, the jeers, the manner of speaking against the children of Israel and Israel’s God—“David heard [them].” Verse 23.
There are times when sinners become so bold that they forget they are vulnerable. This is what gives sin its aggressiveness. In the time in which we are living, we can see that sin is very aggressive. It is taking liberties that it should never have been allowed to take. But we have acquired a lackadaisical attitude, thinking that all is well in Israel.
I want to point out that God will only allow sin to go so far. When it is time for God to bring judgment against sin, it often comes with blinding force—suddenly, quickly, with completeness, and many times with death and destruction. God’s plans know no haste and no delay. Sin will only be permitted to go so far.
Goliath thought that he was invincible. He daily paraded with all of his self-righteousness—that is what the armour represents in this story—on major display. Covered from head to foot with armour—his self-righteousness—he would shout his taunts at God’s people, and the Bible says, David heard it.
“And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.” Verse 24. There are principles that are as true today as they were back then. One of these principles is that perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18.) Where were God’s people, at the moment God needed them the most? They were terrified. If perfect love casts out all fear—and these people were very afraid—what was in their hearts? Was love there? No. There was no love for God or for man, because perfect love would have cast out that fear. God’s people were terrified of this man, Goliath. They had heard these same taunts day after day for 40 days and had done nothing.
David heard the taunting, and he began to inquire, in the hearing of his brothers, what all of this was about. “And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up?” How could they not have seen him? “Surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, [that] the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel.”
1 Samuel 17:25. David was not im-pressed with the promised reward. He had heard the challenge of this man against the children of Israel and against Israel’s God, and he cared that there was no response from Israel.
“And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who [is] this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.” Verses 26, 27.
Last Day Parallels
Here were two armies—the camp of Israel and the camp of the enemy. They were drawn up in battle array. We can draw some parallels from this with last day events.
There will be battles in the last days. There will be wars. There will be wars waged between righteousness and unrighteousness. Those on the side of righteousness will be very few in number—a little remnant, we are told. (See Early Writings, 66.) Remnant means small in number.
The great controversy is being played out right before us. On one side of the valley is the army that represents the forces of the devil, and the army on the other side represents the organized church. Pause for a moment and think about that; let it sink in, because in fact, that is the way it is—the enemies of God against the organized church. It should have been the organized church that was out there fighting the battle, because it had organization. It had captains of thousands. It had people in positions of leadership. It had money. It had armament. It had everything that counted, as far as going into battle was concerned. But there was one thing that it lacked. It lacked the power of the Holy Spirit.
King Saul should have led his troops into battle and pulled down the devil’s strongholds, but he was terrified. He had no power of the Holy Spirit operating in his life, so there they were in a standoff. Israel was too afraid to move.
This is basically where we find ourselves today. The Seventh-day Adventist denomination is too afraid to go into battle against the enemy of God and his laws. As a result, nothing is happening. There is an occupation of ground, a standoff in the hastening of the day of the Lord’s return. Scripture after Scripture would validate that statement.
Notice that David was not a part of either group. Arriving on the scene late in time, David was small, and he was young. Does that ring any bells? David was historic. David knew the true God. He had spent time getting to know God. David was independent of Israel’s army. The Bible tells us that. He was independent of the structural forces of King Saul. Saul was supposed to do the work, but he was not doing it, so God called historic, independent David onto the scene to accomplish the work that Saul would not do.
The question needs to be asked, Who really was the church back then? Was it Saul and his forces that were the visible representation of God’s people, or was the true church represented by small David who came late on the scene?
You did not know that lesson was in the story of David and Goliath, did you? But it surely is! These accounts are written as instructions and examples to us who are living in the very end of time. They are there so we will be able to take courage and come victoriously through the time of trouble that is before us.
This account parallels what we are facing today, so much so that it almost seems prophetic. Notice verse 28: “And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he [David] spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.” That was all David needed to hear. Here he came, happy to see his brothers who, in God’s army, were fighting the battle and trying to win the victory. He began to make inquiries when he heard the big giant. The first response he heard from his own kinfolk was, “Shame on you, you naughty little boy. I know why you are down here.” What a good object lesson in family relationships! David, bless his heart, asked, “What have I now done? [Is there] not a cause?” Verse 29.
This brother, Eliab, was one of the church members, if you please, in Saul’s group. He came to David with numerous accusations, because David was not part of the group. He thought that David had come to the battleground to satisfy some curiosity on his part. He had no idea at all what was in David’s heart.
Words Travel Quickly
After David had spoken to his brother in Saul’s church, he turned to other members in the structure of Israel. Verses 30 and 31 say, “And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner. And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed [them] before Saul.” David inquired, “Who [is] this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Verse 26. So it was reported to Saul what David had said.
This tells me that the Israelites had quite a telephone campaign, so to speak, because the word got clear back to Saul—quickly. David was out in the middle of the army somewhere, and by word of mouth, his questionings got back to Saul. In verse 31, we are told that Saul “sent for him,” and verse 32 continues, “David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him [the Philistine]; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
Just a Stripling
A little bit more of the picture is given in 1 Samuel 17:56. “The king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling [is].” A stripling is not a Mr. America or a Mr. Universe. A stripling is a bony, skinny, teenage boy who has not yet filled out his muscular maturity. Everyone recognized that. There was Goliath, wearing hundreds of pounds of armour, and there was this little stripling, who came to the king, a giant in his own right, and said, “Don’t let anyone’s heart fail because of this giant. I’ll tell you what. I’m going to fight him.” (Verse 32.)
And Saul said, “Go for it David. We’ll sit here and watch you.” Right? Oh, no. Would that it had been that way. “Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him.”—You are just a youth. He is a man of war. “And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep . . . .” Verses 33, 34. “Here are my qualifications,” offered David. “I am a shepherd.”
This should say something to us. Of whom was David an example? Ah, yes, the Great Shepherd. David was a shepherd. And, he said, “I have kept my father’s sheep. And I will tell you what! There came in a lion . . . .” (Verse 34.) Our adversary, the devil, goes about as a roaring lion. (See 1 Peter 5:8.) Is the lion any match for Jesus? No.
There are several parallels that may be made of the beasts from which David protected his sheep. (1 Samuel 17:34.) The lion was the first beast in Daniel’s vision of chapter 7. The bear and the lion could represent Babylon and all of the things that Babylon could bring against the church in the last days. The bear, in Daniel’s vision, represented Medo-Persia. Babylon and Medo-Persia had a completely different philosophical approach by which to come at God’s people. Those things are recorded here for a reason. David said that a bear came and took a lamb from the flock. Babylon likes to come in and gather God’s people away from Him.
“And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered [it] out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught [him] by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.” And, David said, besides all of this, “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. And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And
David girded his sword upon his armour,” and he tried in vain to move. 1 Samuel 17:35–39.
Stop and think about what we have covered so far. There was Goliath. There was Saul, a giant in his own right. There was Saul’s huge armour. There was David, a puny, little teenager, and Saul loaded all of his armour on David, then said, “Now go get him.” David tried in vain to move and could not. Let me tell you something, friends. You cannot go anywhere with self-righteousness. That is what these texts are telling us. David said, “I cannot go with this stuff,” and he removed all of it.
“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 [that is the bag]; and his sling [was] in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield [went] before him. And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was [but] a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.” Verses 40–42. There was probably no one that challenged good looks more than David did.
“And the Philistine said . . . [Am] I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” Verse 43. As we go out and challenge for God, we will be confronted with every vile epithet that can come out of the mouth of a human being. With God’s help, we must ascend above those things. I know what it is like to be in the work force and hear the language that is there. I know what it is like to be standing in line and hear the conversations going on around me. But we must rise above those things, if we are going to be able to stand in these last days, and we have got to do it with the spirit of David.
“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. Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield . . .” With all your armour of self-righteousness you come to me. “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 carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth.” Verses 44–46.
Why was this going to happen? It was going to happen as an example that there was indeed a God in Israel. This was why Daniel confronted Nebuchadnezzar. This was why the three Hebrew worthies confronted Nebuchadnezzar. They said, “You do not need to play the music again. We have already made our decision. We are going to stand for what is right.” (Daniel 3:15-20.)
Goliath had come rumbling into the valley for 40 days, casting his voice across the mountainside. When David heard him, he said, “Your time of probation is up. It is all over. Today, I am going to give you to the fowls and to the beasts that the whole earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” (1 Samuel 17:46.)
“And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle [is] the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.” Verse 47. Goliath could not stand to have the gospel preached to him. Those were fighting words, as far as he was concerned, because, verse 48 says, “And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.” David took off on a run. He hasted, it says, and he went “to meet the Philistine.”
We often have a tendency to sit back and think, “I will just watch this situation and see what happens.” But David took off on a run to meet the enemy, as the enemy was coming toward Israel. And then “David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang [it], and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him.” Verses 49, 50.
This is where the story gets kind of gruesome. I do not understand this, but it is there, and I have to accept it for what it says. David took the Philistine’s sword out of its sheath and cut off his head. “And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.” Verse 51.
“We will be your servants! You just send someone out here, and if you can kill our giant, we will serve you.” No, they would not! They were liars! They were part of the devil’s host of liars, and they took off, fleeing.
“And the men of Israel and of Judah arose.” Verse 52. This is always the case. There are those who will go out and challenge for God. They may receive all kinds of wounds and may even sacrifice their lives, but others will try to claim the victory and the fruit. I have seen this happen repeatedly. The children of Israel, who were in a state of apostasy, attempted to claim the victory of David over the Philistines. They did do a job. They chased their enemy all the way to the gates of Ekron, and the wounded of the Philistines fell down along the way, even to Gath, and unto Ekron. (Verse 52.)
“And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents.” Verse 53. They were more interested in the material belongings of the world than in validating the God of heaven.
This is a wonderful story of righteousness by faith versus righteousness by works. It is a wonderful story of how we should be able to stand in these last days. It is a wonderful story of how to prepare for the last days that are coming.