How God Produces Champions–Part 1
1 Samuel 17:12–39
Samuel Lesson #065
September 27, 2016
“Our Father, we are so grateful that we have You to come to in time of need. We remember these two specific needs that have been brought to the attention of the congregation. We pray that their financial needs will be met and You will provide for them.
Father, we are also very grateful for the many ways that You supply for this congregation in numerous ways. Father, we pray that You would continue to do so. We trust in You for all of that. Father, we are thankful that we have Your Word that is a source of our strength and encourages us and transforms us. We pray that we can focus upon Your Word this evening, in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
We are in 1 Samuel 17. You may want to open your Bibles to 1 Samuel 17:12. Tonight we are going to begin looking at “How God Produces Champions.”
One of the great promises that we have in the New Testament is in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
“No temptation” and that is not the best translation for that word. It has to do with testing. Of course, any test is a temptation. You may not feel like it is a temptation, but any thing that is an opportunity for you to either obey God or not obey God is a temptation. Temptation has an objective, external aspect and internal aspect.
The internal aspect is usually when your sin nature is drawn to a particular sinful course of action. That is often how we think of temptation, only in terms of that internal enticement. But Jesus never had that. Jesus did not have a sin nature. He is never attracted to sin, but yet He was tempted in all points as we are, same word. It is a test.
Eve was tempted. She did not have a sin nature, but she chose to yield to that test, or temptation. That is what 1 Corinthians 10:13 is talking about, these are tests. Whether you feel tested or not is not the point. The reality is any moment, any opportunity where we can go positive and obey God or negative and disobey God that is a test. Are we going to trust God and obey Him or not?
1 Corinthians 10:13, “No testing has overtaken you except such as is common to man.” We all go through these testings. The Lord Jesus Christ went through these various tests. He was tested in every area as we are. It does not mean He had every single specific test, but in every category He was tested and He was found without sin. That is not true for us.
“We are tested in every area that is common to man, but God is faithful.” Notice that the emphasis is not on the problem that comes because we are facing a challenge that we cannot handle. God is always able to handle every test. Then it goes on to say that God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.
What gives you and me ability to handle any test? Not our own resources. So many people sort of misapply this. They say that God is not going to give me too much to bear. The point in the passage is God is not going to give you so much to bear that He cannot handle it. He is the One that sustains us. He is the One that enables us to face whatever that test is. In your fallen sinful condition you are going to fall apart at almost any test.
But the reason He is not going to test us beyond our ability, it is not our ability in the flesh, is because we are trusting in God. Any test that we face we can handle, not because of our own resources, but because God’s resources are available for us. He is not going “to allow you to be tested above what you are able, but will with the temptation make the way of escape.”
A lot of people mentally stop there. They are thinking that what this is saying is that God is going to give you an escape clause. No matter how bad it is you can get out of it. But that is not what it says. It says that you can escape “that you may be able to bear it.” You can stay in and under the test and under the pressure without caving in because God is the One who is sustaining us.
But more than all of that, what we see here is that God is the One who ultimately in His sovereignty is in control. He is tailor making these tests for each and every one of us. Even though to us the tests often seem out of control. You see this mentioned in the text, “No temptation has overtaken you.” That is how we perceive it. We perceive that we are overtaken. It is just something that happens.
In James 1:2–4, “Count it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials …” The idea here is that you are falling into it. It seems random to us, but what the Scripture says is that God is in control. God does not make mistakes. God is tailoring all these tests in order to produce a spiritually mature believer. He never makes mistakes. When God wants to make a man, wants to make a mature believer, He knows exactly what He is doing.
Oswald Chambers, in his book Spiritual Leadership, wrote a great poem I ran across the other day “When God Wants to Drill a Man.” It says:
“When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.”
Often we think, “God, you really do not know what You are doing right now in my life. It would be much better to go this other way.” I say that because as we look at this episode with David and Goliath, we understand that God has specifically designed this test for David. The tests are being brought together at this particular time in history.
Last time we saw that God worked through over 400 years of history to bring about this particular trial to confirm David as the king and to demonstrate that he is God’s chosen, His is anointed, His Meshiach for the throne.
One of the things that we might think about is that we have studied Samuel. We studied back in the early parts of Samuel, when the ultimate enemy of Israel was the Philistines. The Israelites were clobbered by the Philistines. The Philistines captured the Ark. God demonstrated His power over the Ark as it wandered around through the various cities of Philistia. God had His way with the Philistines until finally they said that they had to get rid of the Ark.
Then we saw how the Israelites later defeated the Philistines. Then we move forward to the selection of Saul as the king. We saw Saul’s battles with the Philistines. We think about the time not too long back from the time from this in 1 Samuel 13–14. Remember, we studied the battles of Michmash, when Jonathan and his armorbearer are going single handedly sneaking up the cliffs to attack the Philistines.
Think about this. That was not that long ago. The question I want you to address is: Where was Goliath? Goliath is certainly old enough to have been in the Philistine army. Where was he? See God was holding him back for David. God knows what he is about, and He was planning this particular battle between David and Goliath, so David could demonstrate that he is God’s chosen champion.
David is the one who is going to defeat Goliath, who is presented in this passage as the champion of the Philistines. Goliath is the champion of the ungodly. He is the champion of the uncircumcised, who are those who are arrayed against God. Goliath represents a type of Satan, who opposes everything in terms of God’s plan for salvation. The Philistines were just one of many ethnic groups that Satan used to try to destroy the Israelites in the Old Testament.
Yet God has prepared a champion who is going to stand against Goliath. He is going to be a champion for God and a champion for Israel. He will demonstrate God’s grace. This is a great application because in the Church Age every one of us should be champions for God. Every one of us should be like David. We have more than David had.
- We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- We have the power of the Holy Spirit.
- We have the completed canon of Scripture.
- We have Bible teaching available today like it has never been available in the history of the world.
There is no excuse for a Christian not to be spiritually mature within two or three years of their salvation. A lot of people get the idea that it takes a long, long time. I remember somebody about 15–20 years ago say, “You know, I have been listening to doctrine for 30 years. I do not know if I will ever reach spiritual maturity.” I said, “Have you ever read 1 Corinthians 3? Where Paul told the Corinthians that it had been about 2½–3 years since he was there. He expected them to be mature by then.
Maturity is something that should come quickly, not slowly, in the spiritual life.
But the problems are that:
- If you do not read your Bible.
- If you do not think about your Bible.
- If you are not memorizing the Word.
- If you are not internalizing the Word.
- If you are not applying the Word.
The spiritual growth is not going to take place. There are a lot of people who just spend time studying the Word and keeping notes. When it is convenient they apply it. That will never produce a champion.
- We need to be champions.
- We need to be champions in our homes.
- We need to be champion husbands and fathers, and champion mothers.
- We need to be champion wives and grandparents.
- We need to challenge our children to be the best children they can be, to be champion children, champion students and teachers, and champion engineers and military men, champion warriors and athletes, employees and employers.
We have to have this vision of absolute excellence in the Christian life. What we have instead are people who are in vast pursuit of mediocrity. That is because they are basically like David’s father and his brothers. They are spiritually apathetic. They have convinced themselves that somehow they are doing a really good job because they show up at church on Sunday, once a week. They go through the motions. That is never going to produce a champion. That is going to produce a mediocre believer.
Review and setting up this section:
1. God’s perfect tests that provide perfect training are perfectly timed.
- God’s tests are perfect.
- The training that God designs for each one of us is perfect.
- The timing is always perfect.
It is interesting to see how this works out with David and Goliath. We saw this last time in 1 Samuel 17:1–11. We saw that God designed this perfect test for David. It came in the shape of this 9½ foot giant named Goliath.
We looked at a couple of these charts to give us an idea of the relative size of Goliath. On the left in this slide you see a 5’2” depiction of David as a young man. I think he was probably closer to 5’6”. The military age according to Leviticus, when you would serve in the army, was the age of 20. David is probably just under that. Probably 18, maybe 19. He has probably reached his full height and stature. He is physically fit.
The average height of an Israelite at that was about 5’6” – 5’7”. According to the Dead Sea Scrolls Goliath was 6’6” in height. That does not seem to be much of a giant, especially if Saul is around 6’2” – 6’4”. Saul would not be that much shorter than Goliath. The Septuagint, as usual, seems to have a problem with numbers.
Then you see the purple figure that gives us a relative height of Shaquille O’Neil at 7’1” in height. The next marker is the tallest man in medical history. His name was Robert Wadlow. He was 8’11” in height. In terms of knowledge of anyone tall, we have never had anyone taller than Wadlow.
What we have here is Goliath who, according to the Masoretic Text, was about 9½ feet tall, depending on how you are measuring the cubit. The numbers you will see are between 9’6” and 9’9” in height.
Here is the relative size of the footprint with Goliath’s footprint on the far left. David’s is the next to the last footprint. The far right footprint is Shaquille O’Neil’s. Goliath’s footprint was huge. He was a well-trained warrior. He was viewed as being undefeatable because of his skill and because of his size. God prepared Goliath as a test. He is not the product of chance any more than the test that you and I run into are the product of chance. Goliath is a unique representation of the enemies of Israel.
We saw in Numbers 13:22, which is one of the critical Old Testament chapters. This is where the Israelites were on the verge of going into the Promised Land. They were at a place called Kadesh Barnea in the south of Israel. They send in the 12 spies. There is one spy for each tribe of Israel to see how they are going to take the land. This was not to see “if” they could take the land, because God has already promised them the land. That He would give it to them.
The Israelites misinterpreted the Word of God to begin with. That is always a sign that trouble is coming when you misinterpret the Word of God because you are going to misapply it. The Israelites go in to spy. They say there are giants in the land. There are too many people in the land, and the cities are all fortified. The giants that they were talking about were the descendants of Anak called the Anakim. The “im” is the plural in the Hebrew.
The Anakim lived in the area of Hebron, which is where Abraham and Sarah are buried, and Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah. They are all buried there at Machpelah, at the tomb of the patriarchs. The Israelite spies saw these giants that were there. That scared them to death.
We are told in Joshua 11 that the Anakim were defeated in the conquest. The remnants of the Anakim went to Gaza and Gath. Goliath was from Gath. On one side of his family he was a descendant of the Anakim, and on the other side he is a descendant of the Philistines.
In this person of Goliath, you have someone who represents the historic enemies of Israel. When the Israelites went into the land in Numbers 13, they said that they could not defeat the inhabitants of the land.
What David is going to show is, “Yes, you can. We can defeat them.” David is being depicted here as going against this descendant of Anak, who represents the historic enemies of Israel. This is showing that the Israelites could have defeated all of the enemies if they had simply trusted God.
Since that first reconnaissance that occurred in the land in 1445 BC, God has been preparing Goliath. He is not somebody who accidently shows up with some sort of pituitary gland problem making him a little bit larger than everybody else. He is a test that has been designed by God.
Goliath also represents a type of Satan, as David is a type of the Messiah. This is a picture that God is able to defeat the forces of Satan and Satan himself. It will be done through the Messiah. We have this initial defeat of Satan when we trust in Christ as Savior and believe in Him according to Scripture:
Acts 16:31, we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved. Ultimately this defeat is realized when we are face to face with the Lord.
The great resurrection chapter in 1 Corinthians 15 ends with the great verse, 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If you look at the context, the victory is victory over death.
In 1 Corinthians 15:54–57 Paul says, “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption (that is what occurs at the resurrection or the Rapture), and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory’ But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (over death, over the grave) through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We see that Goliath was a perfectly designed test by God just for David and just for this moment. But the other thing that we see here is that not only does God have a perfect test for perfect training, God has perfect timing.
What we see in 1 Samuel 17:12, as we go forward in the narrative, is a shift back to David’s family. “Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse, and who had eight sons. And the man was old, advanced in years, in the days of Saul.”
Jesse is identified as being someone from Bethlehem, which is a small village in the tribal area of Judah. He is an Ephrathite. That means he is a descendant of Ephrathah. Who is Ephrathah?
We run into the name Ephrathah in Micah 5:2, which predicts that birth of Messiah as being in Bethlehem Ephrathah. Who is this person?
We read in 1 Chronicles 2:19, “When Azubah died, Caleb took Ephrath as his wife, who bore him Hur.”
Remember, of the twelve spies that went into the land, there were two that trusted in the Lord, Joshua and Caleb. Caleb is a Hebrew word for dog. He was God’s dog soldier. If you know anything about the Cheyenne warriors, you know that they had a clan called the “Dog Soldiers.” That was one of their elite fighting forces.
We are told that this Caleb had a wife named Azubah. When she died he took a second wife named Ephrath, and sometimes she is called Ephrathah. The “ah” is feminine ending. Caleb takes her as his wife, and she gives him a son named Hur.
In 1 Chronicles 4:4 we are told “and Penuel was the father of Gedor, and Ezer was the father of Hushah. These were the sons of Hur, the firstborn of Ephrathah the father of Bethlehem.”
The phrase “the father of Bethlehem” does not refer to Ephrathah. It refers to her. Ephrathah married Caleb. Caleb was given Hebron by Joshua. He is given Hebron. He captured Hebron. When he marries Ephrath she had a son named Hur. Hur establishes the village of Bethlehem. He names it after his mother. It is named Bethlehem Ephrathah.
This is how it is described in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
This tells us that the Messiah is going to be born in Bethlehem, but it also tells us that the One who is born, which emphasizes His humanity, is also going to be someone Who is from eternity, “that His goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” That indicates that He is going to be divine and human.
As this verse develops it focuses on who David is, because David is a type or a picture of the Messiah, who also will be born in Bethlehem.
We looked at the geography of the battle last week. Here I have a larger map of Israel. We have the Mediterranean Sea on the far west (left on the map). We have the Jordan River near the center of the map, flowing down from the Sea of Galilee in the north, which is off the map. The Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea. Approximately 35–40 miles to the west of the Dead Sea is, at this time Jebus or Salem. It is later known as Jerusalem. About 4–5 miles south of there is Bethlehem, the house of bread.
Bethlehem is where David is from, which it is due east of Goliath’s hometown of Gath. If you can see on the map the blue line of water that is broken, it shows that this is an intermittent stream that runs from north of Ashdod all the way through this area (near the Valley of Elah).
This stream is flowing from east to west. It flows past Bethlehem on to Gath. That is the streambed that runs through the Valley of Elah, which is where these soldiers of the armies of Israel are facing off against the armies of the Philistines.
Here is another map. It is zoomed in. You can see Bethlehem due east of Gath. In between you have the Valley of Elah, which is where David fights Goliath.
Here we see an aerial shot of the Valley of Elah. It does a dog leg through the area around Azekah. The area to the south is where the Philistines had their forces. Across the valley to the northern hill is where the Israelites were located. They were coming out to yell at each other and face off every day.
We are told in 1 Samuel 17:12, “David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse, and who had eight sons. And the man was old, advanced in years, in the days of Saul.”
Jesse is now old. That means he is too old to fight. He is beyond 60 years. He has advanced in years at the time of Saul. That gives us the setting and a reminder of the background.
1 Samuel 17:13, “The three oldest sons of Jesse had gone to follow Saul to the battle. (These three sons are of age, so they are called up to go to battle.) The names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab, the firstborn, next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah.”
1 Samuel 17:14, “David was the youngest. And the three oldest followed Saul.”
We are told, reminded that David is the youngest. He is not old enough to fight. He is not old enough to be in the army. It is just these three oldest ones that followed Saul. But David is not completely out of the picture.
Remember, David has been brought in as an armor bearer for Saul. That would be the group that he was with, even though he did not function as an armorbearer. His primary responsibility was to play the harp whenever the demon would come upon Saul and scare him to death.
1 Samuel 17:15, “But David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep in Bethlehem.”
On occasion David would go back and forth. He would be released from his duties. He went back home. With the older brothers in the army it was necessary for him to go home and take care of various domestic responsibilities.
What we see here, which is important in terms of the preparation of anyone who is going to be a spiritual champion is related to the first divine institution, which is personal responsibility or individual responsibility. David is taught individual responsibility in the home. He takes it very seriously. This is going to come out in a passage where we are going to get real evidence of this.
This is so important. I remember reading a study back in the 1980s. This was true some 30 years ago. It is even truer today. A group was doing a lot of research studies and providing information for youth ministers put out this study. They said that the average age that a young man would reach emotional maturity—that means the ability to fulfill responsibilities and make important decisions—in the 1880s, was approximately 13–14 years of age.
That fits with what we find in a lot of ancient cultures. A young boy became a man at the age of 13 years. He could assume adult responsibilities. You did not have this adolescent, teenage thing until you hit the 20th century. It is a by-product of the 1920s and a lot of other movements. You used to have childhood and adulthood and that was it. Not this in-between stage of adolescent irresponsibility.
What you had, because most people lived on farms in rural environments, and from the time the children were old enough to pick anything up and carry anything they were responsible for collecting fire wood, cleaning things up, collecting the eggs from the chickens, or whatever it was. They were given responsibilities. Responsibility and assuming responsibility was what develops maturity.
That is one reason it is important. If you have children, you give them these various chores and jobs and responsibilities around the house. They can develop a sense of ownership and responsibility within the home. It helps to develop their maturity. When they get old enough to work they should get a job. When they hit a legal age there are a few jobs you can do in Texas. There used to be anyway. When I was growing up you could not start working until you were 14 years. If you were a younger than that, 12–13 years old, you could get jobs working at the stadium. Things have probably changed a whole lot more. I remember that a friend of mine called me up one day. He had gotten a job selling seatbacks at Rice Stadium. They had benches, so you had to buy one of these seatbacks that would fold up. You could lean back against these seatbacks while you were sitting at Rice Stadium.
I learned all kinds of important things from doing that. Mostly, I learned how to pitch quarters. From the first day I learned how not to pitch quarters. These guys that were out there were older. They really knew how to pitch quarters. They would take your money. You learned NOT to do things.
There are all kinds of lessons that a young man learns in that kind of environment. You would have to be there on time. You would have to take care of your responsibilities or you would get into trouble. You would not be called back to work again. Those kinds of things you learn.
I had a paper route. I always worked, all the way through high school. I did not need to. My parents were not in financial straits, but there was this atmosphere around the home and around our culture that when you got old enough you worked. You did something. You learn all kinds of things. You do all kinds of different odd jobs. A lot of you men have similar experiences. You learn things that ultimately are important for when you get married and you have a house. You have to take care of things around the house. You get a car. You have to take care of things on your car.
I worked in a gas station for most of the time I was in high school. I worked for a guy at the church where I grew up who had a gas station. When I left to go to college he said, “Robby, do you know anybody else who could work for me when you leave?” I said, “Yes, I know a guy named Bruce Cooper.” He hired Bruce. Bruce worked for him for a number of years.
In fact, that man goes over to Grace Bible Church. Every now and then Bruce and I will get together with him. He is 94–95 years old now. He is still doing very well. You learn all these different things. David was that way. He had a tremendous sense of responsibility.
The next thing we are told, as we are setting up the background, this perfect timing of the test, is in 1 Samuel 17:16, “And the Philistines drew near …” He is coming across that open valley. “… and presented himself forty days, morning and evening.” That is almost six weeks.
Day in and day out he comes out and he bellows this challenge against the Israelites to come out and fight him. He does this every morning as the sun is coming up, and every evening as the sun is going down. That is important to understand as to timing.
We are going to shift from the battlefield back to the home front with David.
1 Samuel 17:17, “Then Jesse said to his son David …” It is during this time, near the end of the forty days. They probably do not know what is going on in the battlefield at all. The text indicates they do not.
“Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain (a couple of bushels) and these ten loaves.”
Actually, in the text this is a parched grain where you would roast the grain in an iron pan. This was a very common food of very common farm folks. It indicates that David is not coming from a wealthy home. It would have a tone of the insignificance of the family in terms of their wealth. This is the basic kind of thing that you could carry with you if you were a soldier. It was their version of the K-rations. They had dried grain and ten loaves of bread.
“… and run (these) to your brothers at the camp.” I think it is interesting that he says “run”. It is approximately 15 miles from Bethlehem to the Valley of Elah. He has got to hustle.
1 Samuel 17:18, “And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.”
You read in literature that this “thousand” probably meant a large group. There is a lot of discussion and debate over this. I believe the text is accurate, “thousand” meant “thousand.” These were the subdivision. This was the battalion commander.
“… and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.” The Greek here indicates the sense of getting a pledge or a token. It is a financial term that would be a receipt or proof that everything is going well, “bring back news of them.”
The scene shifts back to Saul. In 1 Samuel 17:19 the men of Israel are in the Valley of Elah. They are not fighting yet. They are coming out and beating their chests and banging their shields. Goliath comes out and issues his challenge. Shift back to David.
1 Samuel 17:20, “So David rose early in the morning.”
This shows a great sense of responsibility on David’s part. What is his job? What is the family responsibility? Taking care of the sheep. He gets up early in the morning. If he decided to take the day off to go visit his brothers, he might have slept a little later, but he has 15 miles to go. He wants to get there at dawn, and we know that he got there at dawn.
That means that he had to get up and hustle at around three o’clock in the morning to make a 15-mile trip. That is five miles an hour, if you have got a good pace. This is not on flat ground. If you have a good pace you might make 4 miles an hour.
David is young, so we will give him 5 miles an hour. It is going to take three hours. He has got to leave somewhere between three and four o’clock in the morning. He takes everything with him. He has to carry these things. We are not told anyone went with him. He has a pretty heavy backpack.
“And he (David) came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle.”
When would that take place? That would take place at dawn. As the troops are waking up, and have gotten up, and are moving into position, David arrives. If David arrived an hour later, he would have missed the challenge.
David is responsible and at the right place performing his responsibilities. He is not being lax in his responsibilities. He is going to try to get back home to take care of the sheep. He has left them with somebody, but he is trying to get this done so that he is gone a minimal amount of time.
David gets to the camp early in the morning, but the timing is perfect. If he had missed the morning challenge, he would not have heard Goliath. He would not have heard what was going on. He would have just dropped off all the food and left. But because he is performing responsibly, he is at the right place at the right time.
1 Samuel 17:21, “For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army. And David left the supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers.”
David does not just drop the supplies somewhere. We all know that is what a lot of kids would do. They would just drop something and run off. The next thing you know the food would disappear. David shows responsibility in giving it to someone who would take care of the food stuffs.
Notice the three verbs are very active:
- David ran.
- David came.
- He greeted his brothers.
- David is excited.
- He is enthusiastic.
- He is looking forward to seeing them.
We will stop the action there. At this point what we see is how these tests develop. But before we do that I want to emphasize the principle that because David has performed well in the small responsibilities that he has in the home, around the house, and with the sheep, David is going to be given greater responsibility by God. He is going to be given a special test that will give evidence of the fact that he is God’s choice and God’s anointed.
By application and implication, many times we fail to be in places like this because we are not behaving responsibly. We have disobeyed God. We are perhaps living in carnality. We are not doing what God wants us to do. We are not at the right place at the right time. We fail to have opportunities to glorify God because we are lazy and irresponsible. We are timid, or we are fearful.
That is what is happening with the army of Israel. They are timid and fearful. They fail to seize this opportunity to glorify God. They cannot even look at the situation from divine viewpoint. They look at it from human viewpoint. They are set up for failure.
We see that God has provided a perfect test and perfect timing for David. Then there are some other things that we can point out, five tests that produce a champion believer like David.
1. Test of preparation
To get the background for the test of preparation we have to skip ahead to 1 Samuel 17:34–37.
What happens is that after David is reported as having properly understood the situation and thinks that he can defeat Goliath, what David says is reported to Saul. Saul interviews him. In the course of the interview Saul tells David that he is a young kid and not militarily trained yet. How can you defeat him? You do not have any background or any experience. You cannot do this.
David gives Saul a resume of how he has performed. This is his background training, how God prepared him for the battle.
1 Samuel 17:34, “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear …’ ”
Because of the way the English idiom works, the English takes this as when a lion or a bear comes. The way it is stated in the Hebrew is with a definite article. The idea is that David is stating a general thing that happened. He is not talking about one lion attack or one bear attack. He is saying that whenever the bear or lion would come around, then I would fight them. This is something that David typically did.
This sounds brazen to some of us who think the only way to take care of a lion or a bear is with a high-powered .30 caliber weapon at about 200 yards. David is not of that mindset. That was the way it was in the ancient world. Let me show you a couple of pictures and we will come back to these verses.
In the upper left hand corner of this slide is a seal that is from the time of Jeroboam at the time of the divided kingdom. The lion that is shown on this seal shows the prevalence of lions in Israel. The other two depictions are from Assyria. They are depictions of a lion hunt. This is how the Assyrians would hunt lions. They would hunt them from horseback with spears. They would get up very close and personal. If you missed the target you are dead.
On the right side of the slide is an Assyrian hunter spearing the lion that is charging at him on his horse. At the bottom there is another Assyrian hunter using a bow and arrow. The lion is coming up behind and putting its front paws on the back of the chariot. You also see a dead lion underneath the horses.
In this slide you have four different depictions. In the left top is a Syrian hunter stabbing the lion as the lion charges him. He is putting whatever he is using, probably a sword, right through the gut of the lion that is up close and personal.
In the lower left depiction, you have an image of a lion that is pierced with numerous spears and arrows. To the lower right you see a lion that is dead with arrows in it. In the top right you see the lion looking up to the right. You see human hands holding a sword and two spears. The human and lion are very close. This is how Syrian warriors would test their courage through hand-to-hand combat with a lion.
What David is talking about to Saul would not be something that would be unusual in the ancient world.
Back to Slide 24
In 1 Samuel 17:34 David says that “when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock …”
A lot of people would say, well, we will have to count it a loss. David is responsible. He says, 1 Samuel 17:35, “I went out after it and struck it.” David has two weapons. He has a staff, and he has a slingshot.
1 Samuel 17:35, “I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth (jaws); and when it arose against (attacked) me, I caught it by its beard (you have got to be fast), and struck and killed it.”
It does not say that David stabbed it. He struck it. That means that David has some strong arms to be able to take his shepherd’s staff or rod, and hit this lion over the head and kill it with one or two blows. Put it down. That is tough. That calls for mental toughness, as well as physical toughness. But it primarily calls for someone who understands their responsibility.
In 1 Samuel 17:36 David goes on to say, “Your servant has killed both the lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine …” Notice David compares the Philistine to a beast. He is not anymore significant than a beast that attacks the flock. That is exactly what he is doing. He is attacking the flock of God. “… and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.”
The point is David calls this giant an “uncircumcised Philistine.” That focuses our attention on David’s thought process, because David is looking at this problem. It is not a military problem. It is not a tactical problem. It is not a problem of who is tougher than the other person. It is that the Philistine is uncircumcised. He is not a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.
The Abrahamic Covenant promised the land to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This land was land that God had promised to Israel. This Philistine, who is a descendant of the Anakim and the Philistines, is our enemy. He has no right to this land whatsoever.
Remember, the Valley of Elah ran from west to east. If the Israelites failed to block the Philistine incursion, the Philistines would have a straight shot to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. They could then cut Israel in half.
David recognizes this is a spiritual issue. It is not a physical issue. We have to trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who gave us this land. He is certainly able to protect us and to give us the victory. David’s mentality is just the opposite of those failures in the wilderness generation, who refused to trust God. He understands the issues. He is going to trust God explicitly and implicitly to handle it.
That is David’s training and background. David has this test from preparation. He has got experience. We can immolate the same thing. What we have to do is learn to trust God, claim promises, and use the faith-rest drill in all the little, small aggravations, irritations, and problems that we face every day.
As we utilize the faith-rest drill in handling the problems at work, problems at home, problems with health, money, and all the other things. As you practice the faith-rest drill it becomes easier and easier. You build in that habit and that skill to be able to face those problems.
What happens with the Israelites is they are operating on pure human viewpoint. Back in 1 Samuel 17:23 we go back to where David finds his brothers. While he is talking to them, “the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines.”
That does not mean Goliath is walking up. If you look at the Valley of Elah it is flat. Goliath is coming across and approaching the Israelite army. Goliath is “coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard of them.” David hears him. If David had not left early in the morning, he would have missed this. This is a sign that he is in the right place at the right time. He hears the challenge.
In contrast to David, 1 Samuel 17:24, “And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.” They have no clue how to handle it, including Saul. They pushed the panic button. They operate on pure sin nature control of the soul in response.
This is no different from people who react in anger, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, or involve some sort of overt sin or respond to something through slander and gossip, things like that. Instead of responding in sin, David reacts in a different way. The Israelites have been doing this reaction since the first time they heard the challenge in 1 Samuel 17:11.
1 Samuel 17:11, “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”
In 1 Samuel 17:25, we catch up on what has been going on the last 40 days. “So the men of Israel said, ‘Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel.’ ”
That is generous. We think of the “father’s house” as a household as mom, dad, and two or three kids. Remember, David had seven brothers. There were not only the parents, but grandparents, if they were alive, the families of all the brothers. You would have multiple families. It would be the clan itself, which could be as many as 80 to100 people that are going to live without any taxes. They are going to have tax-free status for the rest of their life.
This is a generous reward for somebody who would take on Goliath. But, of course, nobody is going to do it because they are not suicidal. They would be suicidal because they do not trust the Lord. But David’s initial response is “who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” David sees it as a spiritual conflict between the paganism of the Philistines and the living God of Israel.
This is what is emphasized in so many passages in the Old Testament. For example, as Joshua is going to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land he says in Joshua 3:10, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you.” He is not a dead god of wood, iron, metal, or anything else. He is the living God. He is not a dead god. He is not an idol. It is the living God that is going to deliver you.
If we fast-forward another couple of hundred years in Israel’s history to the time of King Hezekiah, when Sennacherib invades and surrounds Jerusalem. Hezekiah goes into the temple to pray to the Lord. Hezekiah identifies this same spiritual issue that the Rabshakeh, the mouthpiece of Sennacherib. Hezekiah says in 2 Kings 19:4 that he had come “to reproach the living God.” He sees this as a spiritual conflict.
In 2 Kings 19:16 Hezekiah prays to God again. He talks about “the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.” Hezekiah understands that ultimately every conflict in our life goes back to a spiritual issue.
It is as I have said for years. Every issue in life always has to be taken back to a theological issue. Everything goes back to how we understand who God is and what He does in our lives.
Then we have Jeremiah 23:36. This is Jeremiah’s indictment of the people at the time of the Babylonian destruction. Jeremiah says that they have all perverted the “words of the living God, the LORD of hosts (the armies), our God.”
This brings us up to an understanding of the issues. The second test is a test of discernment. Are we able to discern what the real issues are when we face problems in life? That is where we will start next Tuesday night.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to reflect on this and to think about how You prepare us to be champion believers, to be truly spiritually mature believers who can live on the basis of Your promises. Father, we pray that You would challenge us with what we have been studying. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”