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Equipping Students to Think and Live for Christ
One morning last week while my children were munching their cereal, we read together 1 Samuel 16- 17--the story of David chosen and anointed as the future King of Israel and David’s defeat of Goliath and the Philistines.
Most of us are acquainted with the oft-told story of David and Goliath. David, the youthful shepherd and youngest of eight brothers, surprises his family when Samuel anoints him as the next King of Israel. Shortly thereafter, David surprises all of Israel and Philistia when he kills the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone.
While we know the storyline, I fear that many of us--including myself prior to last week—may be missing the deeper faith issue in this story.
The story of David and Goliath is about more than a shepherd boy defeating a battle-seasoned giant in one-on-one combat. The story of David and Goliath is about God’s desire to make His name known to all the world.
The Problem—Goliath’s Taunts, Israel’s Fear
On the surface, the problem in this story is that Goliath repeatedly appears at the front of the Philistines’ lines to mock and defy the armies of Israel. “For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening” (17:16). And as he takes his stand, he mocks, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day” (17:10).
At the same time, the author also makes it clear that there is a deeper problem: rather than seek the Lord, the Israelites tremble in fear at Goliath’s taunts. “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid” (17:11). “All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid” (17:24).
Yet a Deeper Problem—David’s insight
When David arrives at the battle lines to deliver food for his brothers, he is keenly aware of yet a deeper problem. Not only is Saul and the army of Israel trembling with fear rather than seeking the Lord and his strength, they do not recognize that Goliath and the Philistines are taunting the armies of the living God and assailing the God of all creation.
Goliath is not just taunting the Israelites, he is taunting the God of Israel. Notice David’s question to the men of Israel: “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (Italics added) (17:26). When David stands before Saul, this is also the reason he gives for his confidence that God will deliver him in battle. “Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (17:36).
David is outraged by Goliath’s words, and rightly so. David responds to Goliath’s taunts saying, “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” (17:45). These are some of the last words Goliath lives to hear.
For the Fame of God
Until David appears in the story, the armies of Israel are concerned more for their own safety than for the glory of God’s name. They view the problem as a mere physical dilemma that they must overcome.
However, the real reason for Goliath’s strength, stature, and defiance of the God of Israel is to make God’s fame renowned among Israel and all the world.
David tells Goliath this just before he kills him: “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand. . . 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” (17:47).
Goliath’s defiance of the armies of the living God serves to make God’s name known in all the earth and to encourage the faith of the Israelites in the God who wins battles without the aid of armies.
Training Our Children to be Warriors
This is the real message of David and Goliath: God is passionate about making himself known in all the earth, that His people may see His glory and trust Him, for the battle is His.
So, let’s be training our children to be warriors as David was—warriors who know that God is zealous about making His name known and warriors who trust Him for the outcome.
Let’s pray for eyes to see the deeper truths before we open the Word (Psalm 119:18), and let’s read the Bible with our children as they munch their cereal--and their snack, and lunch, and dinner. Then, let’s discuss the Scriptures when we are done. Without this, the Scriptures are just stories; they may teach virtue, they may produce in us a desire for doing good, and they may even instill in us the hope of a great hero. But these are not the same thing as knowing and trusting in the God who takes down giants and armies in order that His glory may be spread and our faith in Him increased.
Then, let’s pray again that God would, by the Holy Spirit, use His Word to produce in our children a passion to be warriors for His fame.