Giants Versus God

1 Samuel 16:7 - Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

1 Samuel 17:38-40 - Then Saul...put a coat of armor on David and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

1 Samuel 17:45-47 - David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head....and the whole world will know there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give all of you into our hands."

The story of David's victory over Goliath is the most famous battle in the Old Testament, and has thrilled the hearts of people of all ages from the day it took place until now. Indeed, the biblical account is so familiar that secular confrontations between "giants" and "underdogs"--from athletics to national politics--are commonly verbalized in "David and Goliath" terminology.

One of the greatest features of this classic drama is that it's true--it really took place exactly the way the Bible describes the event. It's not exaggerated "Jewish legend" or a "spin" of some ancient battle in Israel's history. No! It's the real-life historical account, and accurate in every detail. The Valley of Elah may be visited today and Holy Land tourists can pick up five smooth stones from the same creek bed where David armed himself.

Besides being a true historical account, the story of David and Goliath is the Word of God, and thus it has many lessons for us today. Romans 15:4 says that "whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction that through perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope." Over the years God's people have drawn strength and courage from the spiritual lessons that are found in the story of David and Goliath.

When we draw out lessons from historical events of Scripture, it's important to stay away from fanciful interpretations, such as the idea that David picked up five stones (rather than just one) because Goliath had four brothers who also needed to be killed. This type of interpretation is called overspiritualization of scripture, and caution is necessary! If the Bible went on to indicate that David also killed Goliath's brothers using his slingshot, then we'd be on a more solid hermeneutical basis--but it doesn't! Most likely David took five stones because he could conveniently carry five, and in case he missed with the first stone, he'd have others as a backup. This was good common sense. If there is a spiritual lesson here, it's that trusting in the living God does not mean throwing common sense out the window! Living by faith does not mean kissing your God-given brains goodbye!

Lesson of Outward Appearance

What are some of the lessons and biblical principles taught in this biblical classic? Certainly there is the lesson of outward appearance. When Samuel was appointed by God to go and anoint the new king of Israel, he was convinced that one of David's more "macho" brothers would be God's choice. Certainly it could not be not the young shepherd, David! Which brother would we have chosen if Jesse had a Goliathsized son--especially if Goliath had been making his threats at that time? But God said to Samuel, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

This well-known verse is sometimes pulled out of its context and misinterpreted to say that actions which appear wrong to others are OK as long as "your heart is right." Nothing could be further from the truth! This Scripture is not a justification for an "I don't care what others think" attitude. It does matter what others think, and we are responsible for our outward appearance as well as our heart. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:22.) And this verse doesn't mean that as long as our intentions are good, we can use any means to accomplish a good goal. Good intentions are not good enough. Our actions matter! God's work must be done in God's way.

1 Samuel 16:7 describes the very different ways man and God analyze or view a person's potential for serving God--including fighting "giants." As humans, we tend to look at the outward appearance and think that well-educated, "good-looking" or talented Christians are the obvious choices for Christian service. But this is not God's method! He looks first at the heart of the individual. If a person's heart is humble and right with God, then God can work with and work through any individual for His glory. A good application for today might be the method for selection of church leaders or board members for Christian organizations. How are our Christian leaders chosen? Are our first choices those people who appear to us as "important," successful business or professional people who are socially prominent in the community? If so, we need to change our viewpoint, and look at people with God's eyes. The people with humble servant hearts should be our first choices, regardless of their professional or social status. A pure heart allows God to accomplish any and every good work though an individual. (See 2 Timothy 2:21.)

Is your heart pure and humble before God? Don't worry about your outward appearance--your looks or talents or brains or popularity. David wasn't worried about his size or his lack of worldly experience--his heart reflected God's attitude. We need to examine our hearts! Is my mind being renewed and transformed by God's Word? Am I beginning to look at this world as God looks at this world--or am I still "arranging deck chairs on the Titanic"? Do my eyes look at others as Jesus does, with compassion and love? Do I desire to serve others, or do I tend to look for "what's in it for me?"--even in Christian service? Am I "playing politics" for personal power--even in church and ministry areas? If our hearts are right before God, then the Lord will be pleased to use us in fruitful service for Him, no matter what our outward appearance may be! (Read Romans 12:1-8.)

Lesson of Outward Armor

Another great lesson in the story of David and Goliath is the lesson of outward armor. When David determined that he would fight Goliath, anxious King Saul wanted him to wear armor. After all, that was the normal way to go into battle. Look at the Goliath's outward armor--a javelin and a spear, a metal helmet, his entire body protected by armor, and a shield-bearer to go ahead of him (1 Samuel 17:5-7)! What an awesome sight--what an outward appearance! Unfortunately, King Saul was impressed and intimidated. He hadn't learned God's lessons about "outward appearance" and "outward armor". Outward armor was actually a hindrance to David. It didn't fit and it hadn't been tested. David stepped out in faith and went with his slingshot. This he knew how to use, because he had tested it and used it successfully.

Some people have the idea that David was just a "shepherd boy," completely untrained and untested. However, David was trained in real life experience. How many hours of disciplined training do you think David spent working on the art of stone slinging and perfecting his aim? In addition, God tested David's courage in confrontations with a bear and a lion as he protected his sheep--alone in the fields. David only had a staff and a slingshot--no rifle! Yet David did not run away as we would likely have done! In real life training and testing David learned the lessons of trusting God despite having no "outward armor."

The Lord calls us to go with what we've got. Each one of us is unique. We don't have to put on someone else's armor--God will use what we have already tested and know how to use in real life experience. God is not limited by lack of outward armor, and He will use what we have. The armor of a seminary education, for example, is not necessary to study and teach the Word of God competently, but a renewed mind that longs to know God and introduce His Word to others is necessary. The armor of a degree in psychology is not required to do Christian counseling, but a compassionate heart that reaches out with God's love and God's Word is necessary. In the area of counseling, God's "real life testing" in our own lives will greatly help us as we seek to comfort others who are hurting (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Education may be helpful and can be used by God, but the point here is that "outward armor" is not necessary to fight giants and serve the Lord.

Although the conventional outward armor was not necessary for David to slay Goliath, the inner armor of God certainly was a requirement. David had put on the full armor of God, so that when the day came, he was able to stand his ground. Read Ephesians 6:10-18, and notice the breastplate of righteousness and shield of faith in David's response to Goliath's threat: "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel" (1 Sam 17:45-47).

We, too, must put on the full armor of God if we are going to be successful in conquering the giants that the enemy of our soul raises up against us. While the conventional outward armor is not a necessary requirement for fighting these giants, the inner armor of God is always a requirement. God is looking for disciplined Christians who are not intimidated by "giants," and who are willing to put on the inner armor He has provided and fight the battles He has given us, using His weapons. (See 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.)

David's training and testing as a shepherd guarding his sheep was put to immediate use. Certainly David learned how to fight with conventional armor in the days ahead, but he responded immediately in faith to serve the Lord with the experiences he had and the weapon he knew how to use. What a lesson for us. Let's not get bogged down with the hang-up of outward armor. There are threatening giants that need to be brought down now! God only asks us to trust Him and go with what we've got. The Lord will use our past experiences and present abilities in ways we didn't dream possible. Our faith should "not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power" (1 Corinthians 2:5).

Lesson of Outward Adversity

A third important lesson we can learn from the story of David and Goliath is the lesson of "outward adversity." From the human perspective it seemed that all hope was gone for Israel. If you walk through the Valley of Elah today it is quite apparent that the Israeli forces were strategically surrounded by the Philistines. From the Bible, supported by archaeology, we know that the Philistines had a monopoly on iron technology at this time. (See 1 Samuel 13:19-22.) Notice that Goliath had a spear head of iron (17:7). Israel's primary weapons were bronze, which was inferior to iron. This was a major disadvantage and frightening adversity. And, of course, the Philistines had their great giant Goliath.

We can imagine the fear that this gigantic threat instilled in the hearts of the Israeli forces--especially in the ancient world, where the military strength of an army was "calculated"--and sometimes the fate of the nation decided--by the representative specimen for each army. The Philistines had Goliath, and Israel had no one! Even if King Saul (who was head and shoulders above the rest of Israel--1 Samuel 9:2) had taken on his responsibility of representing Israel as champion, the comparison with Goliath was enough to intimidate any soldier of that day! That is, of course, if the soldier was only looking at outward adversity. But David was not intimidated by Goliath and the Philistine army, or the lack of good weapons of warfare.

David looked to God, and so should we! From God's perspective, there's no such thing as a giant! The "giants" of outward adversity dwindle to insignificance when compared to God. From our viewpoint the giants of financial failure, red tape, workload, loneliness, difficult relationships, and serious illness are huge and very intimidating. But they are only outward adversity. With God's perspective, these giants become challenges and tests for our faith. With God, they can be overcome by the mere "slingshots" we hold in our hands. And according to 1 Corinthians 10:13, God never allows us to be in a testing situation that is beyond our ability to handle. "God is faithful and will not allow you to be tested beyond what you can bear."

Fighting the giants of terminal illness, joblessness, persecution, or severed relationships can be a very frightening, discouraging and lonely battle, but it's on the battlefield that we learn to trust God. And it's on those battlefields that "those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31). Think God, not giants! Bring your frightening or intimidating situation to Him. Hebrews 4:14-16 reminds us that Jesus understands how we feel--He has been through the same battles that we face today! Because of this, we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need."

In Philippians 4:6-7 we read, "Do not be anxious about anything....present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." God promises us that He "will keep in perfect peace" those whose minds are steadfast ("stayed on Thee"), because they trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3). When we bring our fears and anxieties to God and trust Him to strengthen us for the battle, His perfect peace will guard our hearts, and no giant of outward adversity can overcome us.

Outward appearance, outward armor and outward adversity are giants that threaten every growing Christian. David overcame these "giants" just as much as he conquered Goliath. The secret to David's success was that he saw giants versus God, not giants versus David! May that be our perspective as well.
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