Who does he think he is?

Slices

Prepare

‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought’ (Romans 12:3). Ask God to help you see yourself as you really are and to humbly learn from him.
 

Bible passage

1 Samuel 17:1–27

17 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armour of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield-bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.’ 10 Then the Philistine said, ‘This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’ 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three eldest sons had followed Saul to the war: the firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

17 Now Jesse said to his son David, ‘Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.’

20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.

25 Now the Israelites had been saying, ‘Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.’

26 David asked the men standing near him, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’

27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, ‘This is what will be done for the man who kills him.’

Rocky bay

Explore

This story is so well known that ‘David and Goliath’ has gone into the language, describing an encounter between a weak person and a much stronger opponent. Here Goliath is called a ‘champion’ (v 4), not in the sense of a winner, but as one representing his side in a battle. Having two individuals fight each other, rather than whole armies, might be a good idea even today!  Whatever, gigantic Goliath’s challenge to Israel (v 10) left even Saul terrified (v 11), and he wasn’t exactly tiny himself (1 Samuel 10:23).

Enter David. Well, not quite – he didn’t appear on the scene until forty days after Goliath started his challenges (v 16). Even though he had been anointed by Samuel (16:13), he was still side-lined from his brothers and left to look after the sheep. But today his father Jesse sent him down to the battle lines to check on his brothers and take some food. Unlike the rest of the Israelites (v 24), David wasn’t fazed when Goliath again came out to taunt them. David, unlike King Saul, saw that the issue wasn’t Goliath’s strength. It was that he was defying God’s armies (v 26). With hindsight we see that Israel’s leadership was changing. Saul’s reign was in decline.

Author
Emlyn Williams

Respond

What issues in the world are concerning you just now? How would they look through David’s eyes if he were here?

Deeper Bible study

Lord, help us to see your perspective on our lives.

Yesterday, we saw David through the eyes of others. Initially sidelined even by his own father, his talents and God’s presence with him gradually become more apparent. It is ironic that Saul, disturbed perhaps by his conscience and his rejection by the Lord as king,1 finds comfort through the very person who will replace him. In today’s reading, we hear from David himself, but first we observe again perspectives impressed by outward appearance rather than the heart of the matter. 

Goliath, the Philistine warrior, has an awe-inspiring build and an impressive arsenal (about 2–3 metres tall2 and carrying armour weighing roughly 57 kg), striking fear into Israel’s ranks (v 11). Overcoming such a giant seems an impossible task. Even Saul seems defeated, once again confirming that he is missing the very ingredient needed in Israel’s king: a perspective from God. David, on the other hand, brings just such a perspective. The crux of the matter is not simply a belittling of one army by another. In the ancient world, whichever army won the victory had the stronger gods, so the pagan giant taunts ‘the armies of the living God’ (v 26) and thereby defies the Lord himself! 

When we are confronted by ‘giants’, whether they be suffocating financial pressures, obstacles in the way of healing a relationship or physical illness, we too need to seek the Lord’s perspective. We can all feel overwhelmed when we look at the outward appearance of things and we can question God’s power to help us, but the eyes of faith see a different reality. Whether the outcome is what we hope for or whether we need to learn new attitudes by what we go through, we can know that God is with us and for us.

Are there any ‘giants’ in your life? What might God be saying to you about them?

1 ‘Evil spirit’ in Hebrew (see 1 Sam 16:14) means something bad or harmful, not moral evil  2 Manuscripts differ on the numbers

Author
Csilla Saysell

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